Vandalized Jewish cemetery in Philly restored after donors give $300K

In February, the historic Jewish cemetery was vandalized and about 275 headstones were damaged.

October 24, 2017 13:30
2 minute read.
vandalized cemetary

A headstone, pushed off its base by vandals, lays on the ground near a smashed tomb in the Mount Carmel Cemetery, a Jewish cemetery, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, US February 27, 2017.. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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PHILADELPHIA (Tribune News Service) — Mount Carmel Cemetery is once again a resting place.

In February, the historic Jewish cemetery at Frankford and Cheltenham Avenues was vandalized — about 275 headstones were damaged — but the burial ground's monuments have been fully restored.

The effort was spearheaded by the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, and on Tuesday Mayor Kenney will get the first tour of the refurbished cemetery.

In March, when word spread about the vandalism, it was international news, and 300 volunteers came forward to assist in the cleanup. The Jewish Federation organized the "Stand Against Hate" rally, and more than 5,000 people gathered in support at Independence Mall. After the vandalism, Kenney took a private tour of the grounds.

No arrests have been made and the motive behind the vandalism remains a mystery.

"The mayor was very helpful and supportive," said Laura Frank, spokesperson for the Jewish Federation. "We were thinking about how we were going to publicly come out with the restoration, and we thought the mayor would be a symbol for our appreciation for the entire city of Philadelphia."

Headstones and bases at the grave site that weighed between 1,000 and 4,500 pounds had to be lifted out for repair. New holes had to be dug, bases were reset and headstones reattached. Larger headstones required a crane for lifting and replacing. There were 225 additional stones that did not topple but had to be repaired because they had been loosened. It takes almost two hours to repair one monument and about six months for the stone masonry work and landscaping to be completed.

The costs added up to more than $145,000, but donations from around the world totaled almost $300,000.

"We were completely floored and so amazed by the massive amount of support that came from every corner of the world," said Frank. "It was a time when we felt vulnerable, the mood in the country at the time made us concerned for what was to come. Not just the Jewish communities but many minority communities. [The response] showed that was not the case, and we were really encouraged by it."

The excess funds were added to revamp the cemetery. More than 300 stones are in need of restoration because of exposure to the elements. Workers removed weeds, bought additional supplies, and will be replacing the fences. Further security measures are being discussed.

"This is a resting place," said Frank. "Everybody deserves a safe place to rest."

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