Muslim activists raise over $70,000 to aid vandalized Jewish cemetery

PHOTO: Sally Amon and her son Max Amon of Olivette, Missouri, react at the toppled gravestone of her grandmother Anna Ida Hutkin at Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery in University City, a suburb of St. Louis, Feb. 21, 2017.PlayRobert Cohen/St. Louis Post-Dispatch via AP
WATCH More than 170 gravestones vandalized at a Jewish cemetery in St. Louis

As of early Wednesday morning, a crowdfunding campaign started by Muslim activists had raised over $70,000 in an effort to help repair a vandalized Jewish cemetery near St. Louis, Missouri.

"Muslim Americans stand in solidarity with the Jewish-American community to condemn this horrific act of desecration against the Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery," read the crowdfunding campaign's website, which was spearheaded by Muslim-American activists Linda Sarsour and Tarek El-Messidi. "We also extend our deepest condolences to all those who have been affected and to the Jewish community at large."

The effort comes after more than 170 headstones were damaged late Sunday or early Monday at Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery, located in the St. Louis suburb of University City, according to a report by the Associated Press on Tuesday.

As of early Wednesday morning, the LaunchGood-hosted campaign had raised more than $58,000, far surpassing the original $20,000 fundraising goal that the organizers said had been met in just three hours.

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens called the cemetery vandalism a "senseless act of desecration" in a tweet on Monday.

The incident at the cemetery comes amid a spate of threats directed at Jewish centers across the nation this year. The FBI and the Justice Department announced earlier this week that they would investigate the multiple bomb threats directed toward at least 60 Jewish centers, including 11 threats made on Monday alone.

The Anti-Defamation League called the situation “alarming” and “disruptive” in a statement and said that the threats should be taken seriously.

In a speech on Tuesday, President Donald Trump denounced anti-Semitism after facing criticism that he had not acted strongly enough against the threats.

"The anti-Semitic threats targeting our Jewish community and community centers are horrible and are painful and a very sad reminder of the work that still must be done to root out hate and prejudice and evil," said Trump after touring the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.

The fundraisers for the "Muslims Unite to Repair Jewish Cemetery" campaign said they launched the campaign in an effort to "send a united message from the Jewish and Muslim communities" and to condemn "hate, desecration, and violence."

The campaign said the proceeds would go directly to the Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery, and that any additional funds leftover after the cost of restoration would "assist other vandalized Jewish centers nationwide.”