The graffiti was discovered as Trump headed to his final campaign stop in the city.
A Jewish cemetery in Grand Rapids was found vandalized with pro-Trump graffiti on Monday, Nov. 2 – the day before Election Day, as President Trump prepared to close out his re-election campaign in Grand Rapids.
A caretaker at the Ahavas Israel Cemetery, which is managed by Congregation Ahavas Israel in Grand Rapids, discovered the graffiti at 8 a.m. EST. It is unclear if the vandalism occurred early morning Monday or over the previous weekend.
The graffiti spells out “TRUMP” and “MAGA” on multiple tombstones, but does not include any antisemitic language or symbols.
“There were no other words or symbols painted that would clearly indicate that it was an antisemitic attack,” Rabbi David Krishef of Congregation Ahavas Israel told the JN. “It may just have been opportunistic vandalism against a cemetery which is isolated and hard to see from the road, on Halloween weekend, not an attack against the Jewish community. We don’t know.”
Upon discovery of the graffiti, Ahavas Israel contacted the Jewish Federation of Grand Rapids, which in turn contacted the Anti-Defamation League’s Michigan chapter, which shared photos of the vandalism on Twitter late Monday afternoon. Local law enforcement officers also verified the authenticity of the crime to the ADL.
We are appalled by the reported desecration of gravestones at the Ahavas Israel Cemetery in Grand Rapids, MI. We are in close touch with the Jewish community and Law Enforcement to investigate this vandalism. pic.twitter.com/mVeGrlsWxE
— ADL Michigan (@ADLMichigan) November 2, 2020
Carolyn Normandin, ADL-MI regional director, told the Jewish News she waited to make the images public until she could verify that the vandalism was an isolated incident and not part of a larger pattern of attacks on Jewish cemeteries.
Normandin said it was unclear whether the graffiti would rise to the level of a hate crime under Michigan law.
“It’s hateful, but how do we verify intent, other than the fact that it’s in a Jewish cemetery?” she said. “There were no anti-Jewish symbols, no swastikas, no anti-Jewish rhetoric. It was political in nature.”
The Michigan Jewish Democratic Caucus quickly issued a statement registering outrage at the vandalism.
“This attack on our Jewish community in Grand Rapids speaks volumes about the choice confronting our country in tomorrow’s election,” Cary Fleischer, Grand Rapids regional chair of the caucus, said in the statement.
UPDATE (11/3/20): This story has been updated with a comment from Congregation Ahavas Israel.