‘Sickening’: Ohio Jewish cemetery desecrated amid rise in antisemitic incidents


(CLEVELAND, Ohio) — Vandals struck a Jewish cemetery in Ohio over the weekend, defacing nearly two dozen headstones with antisemitic graffiti and prompting outrage from local Jewish officials who called the incident “sickening.”

The desecration of the Jewish cemetery in the Cleveland suburb of Brooklyn came amid a precipitous rise in hate crimes and incidents across the country targeting Jewish and Arab-Muslim communities since an Oct. 7 surprise Hamas terror attack on Israel. More than 1,200 Israeli civilians and soldiers were killed in the attack, according to Israeli officials. Retaliatory strikes by Israel in the Gaza Strip have left more than 11,000 people dead, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry, and prompted a humanitarian crisis in the Palestinian territory.

The vandalism at the Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery in Brooklyn, Ohio, was discovered by police around 10:21 a.m. Sunday when officers were notified of the damage by a passerby, according to a statement Monday from the Brooklyn Police Department. The vandalism is believed to have taken place sometime between Saturday night and Sunday morning, according to police.

Officers discovered 23 headstones with antisemitic graffiti scrawled over them in red spray paint, according to police.

Currently, no arrests have been announced in the incident.

Volunteers from the local Jewish community gathered at the cemetery on Sunday and cleaned the graffiti from the headstones by hand.

The Jewish Federation of Cleveland, a nonprofit organization focused on the health and vitality of the Jewish community, released a statement condemning the vandalism.

“It is absolutely sickening that anyone could have so much hate for the Jewish people that they would desecrate Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery,” the group said in its statement. “This cowardly act to violate the memory of our elders only confirms what we already know: the hatred of the Jewish community here and around the world now is at a level not seen in generations.”

Nationwide, the Anti-Defamation League said last month it had recorded a “significant spike in antisemitic incidents” since the Oct. 7 Hamas attack.

According to preliminary data from the ADL Center on Extremism, 312 incidents of harassment, vandalism and assault were recorded from Oct. 7 to Oct. 23 — a 388% increase over the same period last year, when the ADL received reports of 64 such incidents, the organization said. More than half of the recent incidents (190) were directly linked to the Israel-Hamas war, the ADL said.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations, the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights organization, said Thursday that from Oct. 7 to Nov. 4, its national headquarters and chapters have received 1,283 requests for help and reports of bias. In an average 29-day period in 2022, it said it received 406 such complaints.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security warned last month of an increase in antisemitic and Islamophobic hate attacks occurring in the U.S. amid the Israel-Hamas war.

“Targeted violence attacks may increase as the conflict progresses,” the assessment said.

ABC News’ Meredith Deliso contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.