Amid the political upheaval of recent months, a troubling trend of threatening calls to Jewish community centers and other religious institutions across the country has flown somewhat under the radar. But when headstones at a St. Louis cemetery were toppled several weeks ago – and especially when the same vile act was perpetrated in Philadelphia more recently – the growth and expressions of anti-Semitism finally began to garner significant attention.
Make no mistake: These cemetery crimes are not unrelated to one another, nor are they insignificant. Along with the threatening phone calls, they represent an attempt to rally a venomous base of miscreants and deliver disquiet to a peaceful religious community. The specific end game of these actions is unclear, but recent history had demonstrated all too well how quickly these manifestations of hate can accelerate into the worst of human atrocities.
For Philadelphians, the presence of this activity is particularly troubling. The history of Jews in Philadelphia dates back centuries, and our 300-year-old bond has helped the Jewish and broader communities thrive. As the cradle of American independence, Philadelphia has long been the embodiment of tolerance for all religious groups, serving as a beacon of light, even in a world too often consumed by hate. Viewed through this lens, the display of overt hostility in the City of Brotherly Love is, to say the least, disheartening.