UNIVERSITY CITY, Mo. – A Jewish cemetery near St. Louis has been rededicated nearly six months after it was vandalized.
Law enforcement is still working to determine if the tipping of more than 150 tombstones at the Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery in University City in February was motivated by anti-Semitism. The attack drew national attention and Vice President Mike Pence visited the cemetery along with Gov. Eric Greitens to assess the damage, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported .
The re-dedication Sunday came after months of fundraising, physical labor and the ongoing police investigation. Andrew Rehfeld, CEO of the Jewish Federation of St. Louis, told the crowd that despite not knowing the motive behind the vandalism, it's still vandalism.
"I don't think you can explain the reaction without referencing what is going on today," he said. "And I believe it was due to a context of growing attacks that we were seeing first and foremost against the Jewish community."
Speakers also recognized Tarek El-Messidi, a Muslim social justice advocate from Philadelphia who helped raise $160,000 for restoration efforts at the cemetery within a few weeks of the vandalism.
"At the core, every human being has the right to rest in peace," El-Messidi said.
In addition to that money, the Jewish Federation raised almost $250,000. That money will go toward security upgrades not just at Chesed Shel Emeth, but at all of the Jewish cemeteries around the St. Louis area.
"Our help had no barriers, no hate. Simply care, compassion and hope," said Rabbi Roxanne Shapiro, vice president of the St. Louis Rabbinical Association. "While God could not guard this sacred place from harm, God did send so many to repair, reclaim and rededicate. In this, a horrific act committed was toppled by acts of love and kindness. Hate did not win. Goodness prevailed."
Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, http://www.stltoday.com