A Muslim-led fundraising drive to help repair a vandalized Jewish cemetery near St. Louis has raised more than $110,000 in less than two days, as donations continue to pour in at a rate of $1,000 every 20 minutes, according to the campaign’s organizers.
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Close to 4,000 donations have already been pledged through LaunchGood, a crowd-funding platform that focuses on the Muslim community. The campaign was initiated by Linda Sarsour, an organizer of January's women’s march in Washington and Tarek El-Messidi, a Muslim-American social activist. Sarsour is a supporter of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement against Israel, causing some in the Jewish community to question her motives.
The campaign, which has gone viral, inspired the following tweet by celebrated author JK Rowling: “This is such a beautiful thing.” Following the tweet, which received more than 10,000 retweets and over 30,000 likes, donations tripled overnight. It has also caught the attention of celebrity talk show host Ellen DeGeneres.
Over the weekend, more than 150 headstones were damaged at the historic Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery near St. Louis. The incident coincided with another wave of bomb threats against Jewish community centers across the United States.
The crowd-funding campaign, launched by El-Messidi and Sarsour, had set $20,000 as its goal. They have promised that any additional funding raised beyond the $20,000, before the campaign ends on March 21, will be used to finance repairs at other Jewish centers that have been vandalized during the recent wave of anti-Semitic attacks.
El-Messidi is the founding director of CelebrateMercy, a Muslim non-profit that engages in what he calls “campaigns of compassion.” Among other campaigns, his organization raised more than $200,000 for the victims of the San Bernardino shootings.
The campaign’s fundraising page states: “Through this campaign, we hope to send a united message from the Jewish and Muslim communities that there is no place for this type of hate, desecration, and violence in America. We pray that this restores a sense of security and peace to the Jewish-American community who has undoubtedly been shaken by this event.”