Vice President Mike Pence made an unannounced visit on Wednesday to the Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery in St. Louis where dozens of Jewish graves were vandalized earlier this week. Pence examined the tombstones that were broken, and offered a strong denunciation of the act.
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Appearing before the cameras at the cemetery, Pence - speaking through a megaphone - said that "there is no place in America for hatred, prejudice or anti-Semitism," using the direct term for racism and hatred of Jews, which the Trump White House has come under criticism for failing to mention in earlier statements on the matter.
Pence also applauded "the people of the state of Missouri" and the local governor for supporting the local Jewish community in the face of the attack. He mentioned that "many of the headstones that were vandalized have already been repaired" and said this was a testament to the care of the Jewish community to its history and heritage.
A Muslim-led crowdfunding campaign to help restore the cemetery reached its goal in less than three hours, and tripled its goal in less than one day. No arrests have been made for the damage at the cemetery in University City, Missouri.
Pence's visit to the cemetery joins a statement by U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday that also denounced recent events of anti-Semitism in the U.S., including a wave of bomb threats aimed at Jewish Community Centers across the country. The Trump administration has come under criticism for avoiding any clear reference to these events for the past four weeks. It seems that this week, the White House has finally decided to directly address this phenomenon.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised Trump for his remarks, saying that "anti-Semitic threats targeting our Jewish community and community centers are horrible and are painful and a very sad reminder of the work that still must be done to root out hate and prejudice and evil."
In January, the White House repeatedly denied the chance to mention Jews or anti-Semitism in an official statement on International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Last week, Trump interrupted a Hasidic Jewish reporter who tried to bring up the topic, dismissing his query as "non a fair question" and shouting down the reporter who tried to challenge Trump on his non-answer. Trump went on to call himself "the least anti-Semitic person that you've ever seen in your life."