A 100-year-old Jewish cemetery in the 2020 election swing state of Michigan was discovered to have been desecrated with graffiti bearing the words “Trump” and “MAGA,” an abbreviation for Donald Trump’s campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again”, according to photos released by the Anti-Defamation League of Michigan.
We are appalled by the reported desecration of gravestones at the Ahavas Israel Cemetery in Grand Rapids, MI. We are in close touch with the Jewish community and Law Enforcement to investigate this vandalism. pic.twitter.com/mVeGrlsWxE— ADL Michigan (@ADLMichigan) November 2, 2020
The civil rights organisation wrote on Twitter that it was “appalled” by the reported desecration.
The cemetery in the western Michigan city of Grand Rapids belongs to Congregation Ahavas Israel, a Conservative synagogue.
According to Rabbi David Krishef, cited by Jewish Telegraphic Agency, the vandalism was discovered Monday and purportedly occurred over the weekend.
“It’s Halloween weekend, there was nothing spray-painted that indicated anything specifically anti-Semitic. Whoever did this may or may not have known that this was a Jewish cemetery,” said the Rabbi, adding:
“I don’t want to blow this up into a known and definite incident of anti-Semitism. We don’t know that it was.”
Krishef said the cemetery has never been targeted with vandalism before.
Carolyn Normandin, regional director of ADL Michigan, said the ADL will continue looking into the incident at the cemetery.
“It was definitely vandalism and it was definitely political in nature but we have no reason to call this straight up anti-Semitism because there were no anti-Semitic symbols on the gravestones that were vandalized,” said Normandin, adding:
“We’re taking it seriously because it was a Jewish cemetery and there were no other cemeteries or communal buildings in the area that were vandalised at the same time. Why did the vandals choose this cemetery?”
According to Normandin, labelling the cemetery vandalism as an “extremist” incident would be “a bridge too far”.
The desecration was discovered on same day as Donald Trump was scheduled to hold a final campaign rally in the Grand Rapids area ahead of Election Day on 3 November.
#Trump2020 supporters have started lining up outside the AvFlight Hanger in #GrandRapids where @POTUS will host his final scheduled campaign event tonight.— Hannah Knowles (@HannahWWMT) November 2, 2020
The President also spent #ElectionEve in Grand Rapids in 2016. @wwmtnews pic.twitter.com/S8R9DioRmR
Michigan is a key swing state that both the current incumbent and his Democratic opponent have been battling for.
Trump similarly held a rally in Grand Rapids on the night before the 2016 election, having since spoken of his final swing of campaign events in 2016 as a reason why he won the state of Michigan.
In a statement regarding the desecration at the cemetery, the Michigan Democratic Jewish Caucus said that “this heinous act was committed on the eve of the 2020 election to send an intimidating message to the president’s opponents, and particularly, Jewish voters.”
He added that the “Grand Rapids’ Jewish community will not be cowed by this vile attack on Ahavas Israel.”