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Faith leaders stand together to address cemetery desecration

Interfaith press conference

Philadelphia area faith leaders stood together on Monday, February 27, 2017, to address the desecration of graves at Mt. Carmel Jewish Cemetery in the Wissinoming section of Philadelphia. Vandals overturned over 100 gravestones at the cemetery, causing significant damage, along with several bomb threats made earlier in the day to Jewish Centers in the region and several other states. The press conference, supported by over 200 interfaith leaders, included participants at the Interfaith Seminar “Coming Together: Supporting, Organizing and Pastoring to Our Members (and one another) in This New Political Environment” held earlier in the day at LTSP. The seminar had been planned before the cemetery destruction.

The Rev. Claire Burkat, Bishop of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, said, “The tombstone desecration at Mt. Carmel Jewish Cemetery is a kind of spiritual violence that must be stopped and denounced by all people who abhor the hate-filled antisemitism that is escalating.” Bishop Burkat, a seminary board member, is a co-convener of the Religious Leaders Council of Greater Philadelphia.

Imam Anwar Muhaimin of the Quba Masjid, also co-convener of the Religious Leaders Council, said “any act of intolerance – which we’re seeing a lot of today – is something that goes against the spirit of the city that we all know and love.” He continued, “I wanted to stand against the bigotry, intolerance, antisemitism, and Islamophobia. We are all in this together, and I pray that God’s power is with us.”

Also speaking at the press conference were Rabbi David Straus of Main Line Reformed Temple and Jewish Community Relations Council (and a Religious Leaders Council co-convener); Naomi Adler, CEO of Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia; Rabbi Jill Maderer of Congregation Rodeph Shalom and member of the Philadelphia Board of Rabbis; the Rev. Bill Worley, Conference Minister and President of the Pennsylvania Southeast Conference of the United Church of Christ; Monsignor Daniel Kutys, Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, who read a statement on behalf of Archbishop Charles Chaput; the Rev. Jay Broadnax, pastor of Mt. Pisgah AME Church and President of Black Clergy of Philadelphia and Vicinity; and LTSP alumna the Rev. Nicole Diroff, Associate Executive Director at the Interfaith Center of Greater Philadelphia.

LTSP President David Lose shared this thought on solidarity, “One of the things Christians learned to their shame during the Holocaust is that if you don’t stand up for those who are the victims of injustice, you become complicit in that injustice. The faculty, students, and staff of The Lutheran Theological Seminary stand with our Jewish sisters and brothers, condemning the vandalism committed in their cemeteries and the threats made against their synagogues and communities centers across the country. This is a time for all persons of faith and good will to stand together against prejudice and witness to our abiding belief that love and solidarity are stronger than hate and division.”

Slide show of the press conference:

You’ll find a recording of live coverage by 6ABC Action News on the LTSP1 Facebook page.

Watch ABC6 WPVI’s reporting here and here.

Bishop Burkat speaks in this report from CBS3 KYW Philadelphia:

KYW Newsradio 1060’s Steve Tawa filed this report.

WHYY’s Newsworks reporter Avi Wolfman-Arent reported on the cemetery destruction and faith community response. Read his story and listen to his report for WHYY’s Newsworks Tonight here.

More on the Mt. Carmel Cemetery story from

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