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Jewish cemetery desecrated with 'Trump' spray paint

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) of Michigan said on Monday that several tombstones in the Ahavas Israel Cemetery in Grand Rapids had been desecrated with “Trump” and “MAGA” in red spray paint.

The civil rights organization tweeted several photos that showed the spray paint on tombstones. The incident is believed to have taken place over the weekend. The cemetery is owned by the Ahavas Israel Congregation.

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The Grand Rapids Police Department would not comment on the incident when reached by The Hill.

David J.B. Krishef, the congregation's rabbi, said in a statement to The Hill that it was unclear if the vandalism was an attack on the Jewish community.

“It may just have been opportunistic vandalism against a cemetery which is isolated and hard to see from the road, on Halloween weekend, not an attack against the Jewish community. We don’t know. We have been in touch with the Grand Rapids Police and the Michigan ADL,” Krishef said.

Speaking to The Hill, Carolyn Normandin, ADL Michigan's regional director, called the incident “vile” and “disturbing.”

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“It's hard to know what the motivation was. I mean, frankly, I am disturbed by all vandalism to graves. And so I'm never really one to think, ‘What does this mean?’ or anything like that, but they're of a political nature for sure,” said Normandin. “It's really hard to get inside the head of a person who would do something like this.”

According to Normandin, the vandalism was first reported by the congregation’s cemetery chairperson. Normandin said police officers discovered both sides of the tombstones were vandalized. She estimated that five tombstones were affected in total.

Though neither Krishef nor Normandin said there is evidence to suggest this incident was due to anti-Semitism, Normandin says it cannot be ignored that anti-Jewish harassment has been on the rise.

According to the ADL’s annual audit of anti-Semitic incidents in the U.S., there were 2,107 reported incidents in 2019, 12 percent more than in 2018 and the highest number recorded since the audit was established in 1979. Of the more than 2,000 incidents last year, 61 involved vandalism. Incidents came from every state in the U.S. except Hawaii and Alaska.

An anti-Semitic incident occurred last year in France when a man spray painted swastikas and anti-Semitic slogans on more than 90 tombstones. The incident elicited widespread outcry in France, which has the highest Jewish population in Europe.

In Missouri last year, a man toppled more than 100 Jewish tombstones. The man, Alzado Harris, received three years of probation and was ordered to pay $5,000 in restitution and attend an anger management course.

Police said they did not believe Harris's actions were motivated by racial or religious prejudices.