Back in February when bomb threats were being phoned in against Jewish Community Centers around the country, there were also several incidents of vandalism at Jewish cemeteries. I wrote about the Vice President’s visit to one vandalized cemetery near St. Louis. Women’s march organizer Linda Sarsour began raising money for repairs to the cemeteries the same month. Her online campaign eventually raised over $160,000, exactly $50,000 of which was distributed to three cemeteries. The last update on the fundraising page, dated March 24, says the following:
With extra funds raised, we have decided to embark on a major project to restore a neglected and vandalized Jewish cemetery in Colorado which is on the National Register of Historic Places. Costs will be over $100K. Learn about the story of this historic cemetery here. We are now hoping to raise a total of $200,000 to ensure we have the funds for this project while helping other vandalized sites as well.
But yesterday a publication called the Algemeiner reported that money was never received. In fact, Sarsour’s partner in the fund-raising has not been returning calls about the promised money:
A Jewish cemetery in Colorado that has fallen into severe disrepair has yet to receive a check for some $100,000 from a group associated with Palestinian-American BDS activist Linda Sarsour, despite being promised the money several months ago, The Algemeinerlearned on Tuesday.
Neal Price of the Golden Hill Cemetery in Lakewood, CO said he had left three unreturned voicemails for Tarek El-Messidi, the founder of non-profit Islamic education organization Celebrate Mercy, who led the high-profile effort by the Muslim community in February and March to raise money for vandalized Jewish cemeteries in the US. El-Messidi’s partner in the effort was Sarsour.
Price says he and others involved in the restoration effort had a meeting and discussed how the money would be spent. They even got bids for certain jobs. He tells the Algemeiner, “Plans are in place. We just need the money.” But after three unanswered calls to Tarek El-Messidi he’s given up hope. “I’ve been doing this [non-profit work] a long time, so I know how it works,” he says. He adds, “You need budgets and time tables, and none of that is here.”
After the story was published, Sarsour contacted the Algemeiner and said her partner in the project was, “awaiting a proposal from the cemetery for potential costs so they can be allocated.” She continued, “This proposal/estimates have not been delivered to Tarek and Celebrate Mercy, who too have to maintain the intention and integrity of the donations received. We promised people they would all go to helping Jewish cemeteries and that’s where they will all go.”
No explanation from Sarsour for 1) why El-Messidi didn’t return any of Price’s calls or 2) why those who promised the money didn’t ask for the proposals they supposedly were waiting to receive. But I think the real question here is how much longer this would have gone on if not for this unflattering news story in the Algemeiner. You almost get the impression that once the wave of positive press for this had passed, it stopped being a priority for Sansour.