Antisemitism in America is on the rise since the election of Donald Trump. The desecration of a Jewish cemetery in St. Louis this week is just the latest example.
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Late Sunday evening, or early Monday, vandals toppled or broke more than 100 headstones at a historic Jewish cemetery in St. Louis.
Those opposed to the President’s harsh tone toward immigrants consider the hateful actions to be part of an unwritten agenda being enacted by the new administration. Yet there’s one positive sign that would suggest this isn’t the case.
On Wednesday, Vice President Pence condemned the vandalism of the Jewish cemetery. While he could of done this from Washington, he traveled to St. Louis. And not just to make a speech. The Vice President rolled up his sleeves and helped with the clean-up efforts.
“On Monday morning, America awoke to discover that nearly 200 tombstones were toppled in a nearby Jewish graveyard,” Pence said later.
“Speaking just yesterday, President Trump called this a horrible and painful act. And so it was. That along with other recent threats to Jewish community centers around the country, he declared it all a sad reminder of the work that still must be done to root out hate and prejudice and evil,” he continued.
“We condemn this vile act of vandalism and those who perpetrate it in the strongest possible terms.”
While the vandalism is offensive, there’s been a more pervasive undertone of violence building. In 2017 alone, 54 Jewish community centers have had bomb threats. The threats span 27 states.
Donald Trump continues to protest at accusations that he is in any way hostile toward Jews. At a press conference last week, Trump exploded on Jake Turx from Ami Magazine (an Orthodox Jewish weekly based in Brooklyn).
“Despite what some of my colleagues may have been reporting,” Turx said, “I haven’t seen anybody in my community accuse either yourself or anyone on your staff of being anti-Semitic. We understand that you have Jewish grandchildren. You are their zayde,”
“Thank you,” Trump responded.
“However,” Mr. Turx added, “what we are concerned about and what we haven’t really heard being addressed is an uptick in anti-Semitism and how the government is planning to take care of it. There’s been a report out that 48 bomb threats have been made against Jewish centers all across the country in the last couple of weeks. There are people committing anti-Semitic acts or threatening to——”
That’s “not a fair question,” Trump interjected. When Turx continued, Trump cut him off.
“Sit down,” he said. “I understand the rest of your question.”
“So here’s the story, folks. No. 1, I am the least anti-Semitic person that you’ve ever seen in your entire life. No. 2, racism, the least racist person.”
Turx again tried to clarify.
“Quiet, quiet, quiet,” Trump said over him. “I find it repulsive. I hate even the question because people that know me. …”
This week, the PResident has focused his rhetoric on the issue. “Anti-Semitism is horrible and it’s going to stop and it has to stop,” Trump told MSNBC on Tuesday during his tour of the National Museum of African American History and Culture.
Those critical of Trump’s recent denouncements claim he should have spoken on the matter sooner. Words are one thing. Pence’s actions, though, speak volumes.