Cincinnati Anti-Semitism Crisis: Mass Vandalism of Jewish Cemeteries Leads to Federal Investigation

The FBI has announced an investigation of a potential hate crime, following the mass vandalization of two Jewish cemeteries in Cincinnati.

Nearly 180 Gravestones Vandalized

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A federal investigation has been launched after nearly 180 gravestones were vandalized at two Jewish cemeteries in Cincinnati.

Confirmed by Jewish Organizations

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The vandalisms were confirmed in public statements from the Jewish Cemeteries of Greater Cincinnati and the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati. The damage was discovered on Monday. 

Knocked Over and Broken

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Swathes of Jewish gravestones were knocked over, with 176 found face down and/or broken in half, according to a news release representing three local Jewish groups. So far, no perpetrator has been found.

Two Covedale Cemeteries

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These incidents took place at the Tifereth Israel and the Beth Hamedrash Hagadol cemeteries in the settlement of Covedale, Cincinnati, and likely occurred between June 25 and July 1. 

Communities Left Heartbroken

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“This act of antisemitic vandalism was uncovered early this morning by Jewish Cemeteries of Greater Cincinnati (JCGC) and has left our community heartbroken,” the initial statement announced. “Most of the gravestones have been pushed face down, making it challenging to identify the affected families at this time.”

“Saddened and Outraged”

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Different groups issued statements of their own online, with the Jewish Cemeteries of Greater Cincinnati and the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati describing their communities as “Deeply saddened and outraged” by the incident. 

Federal Investigation Launched

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The FBI has now launched a federal investigation of the issue, alongside local authorities, including the Cincinnati Police and Green Township of Hamilton County.

No Known Suspects

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According to the release, there are currently no known suspects connected to the incident. The FBI is urging “anyone with information about this vandalism” to contact them. 

FBI Team Up With Local Law Enforcement

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“The FBI Cincinnati Field Office, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Ohio, and the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division are working with local law enforcement partners to investigate the damage to gravestones at Tifereth Israel Cemetery and the Beth Hamedrash Hagadol Cemetery,” the FBI said on Thursday.

$10,000 Reward

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It then announced a $10,000 reward for any information that could lead to the arrest of the perpetrators. 

Reaching Out for Information

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The federal agency will also reach out to anyone who visited either cemetery during the week of June 25 to July 1, to ascertain which dates and times the vandalism most likely occurred.

Biden Weighs In

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President Biden also acknowledged the incident, sharing a post that condemned the “despicable” vandalism on social media platform X. 

“This Is Antisemitism”

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“This is Antisemitism and it is vile,” the post reads. “I condemn these acts and commit my Administration to support investigators in holding those responsible accountable to the full extent of the law.”

Rising Tide of Antisemitism

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Antisemitism has been surging in the US in recent years, with this vandalism just the latest in a list of attacks and incidents affecting the Jewish community. 

Anti-Defamation League Report

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A recent report by the Anti-Defamation League, a non-profit group that advocates against antisemitism and other forms of bigotry and discrimination, claimed that incidents of antisemitism in the US had increased by 140% in the last year.

Dramatic Increase Since October 7

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These incidents included harassment, vandalism, and assault. The ADL has attributed the “dramatic increase” of antisemitic incidents to the ongoing conflict in Gaza, following the October 7 terrorist attacks in Israel. 

Highest Amount on ADL Record

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The ADL also noted that the recent surge in antisemitic incidents is the highest amount it has tracked since the organization began recording incidents in 1979.

Community Remains Resolute

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While many Jewish communities were shocked and horrified by the Cincinnati incident, others have remained “resolute” against the rising tide of antisemitism that it represents. 

A Cowardly and Destructive Act

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“It’s a cowardly act, it’s a destructive act,” Rabbi Ari Jun of the Jewish Community Relations Council told reporters. “But our Jewish community is resolute in that it’s not going to affect us in the way in which these haters want to see it affect us.”

Fundraising Begins

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The expected duration of the investigation is still unclear. While the cost of the damage to the cemeteries has not been released, the Jewish Cemeteries of Greater Cincinnati has started a fundraising campaign to cover repair costs for the gravestones. 

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