By Jessica Machetta
St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger is treating a massive vandalism this week at a Jewish cemetery in eastern Missouri like a hate crime, even though police are not calling it one at this time. Some 200 headstones were overturned at Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery in University City.
Stenger says it was late at night when he learned of the vandalism spree. He says his first call was to County Police Chief John Belmar.
“There’s no place for this type of conduct in our community,” says Stenger. “I wanted to make sure that we were making efforts to protect any other possible and potential targets.”
Stenger says his next step was to call Karen Arreste with the Anti-Defamation League.
“I expressed to her my outrage and advised to her that Chief Belmar was going to be calling her,” says Stenger.
He is working with the community to increase law enforcement in the area and offer whatever help he can in the way of county resources.
Stenger says the cemetery owner told him he did NOT need any financial help and that he had it under control. A local Muslim group has raised more than $40,000 to help with repairs.
Families of Jewish community members buried there continue to pour into the cemetery to see if their loved one’s final resting places were desecrated. The Cemetery is also publishing lot locations of those damaged, so families who don’t live here can check online.
Governor Eric Greitens, who is Jewish, and Vice President Mike Pence helped Wednesday with cleanup efforts at the cemetery.