Mike Pence, Missouri governor clean up vandalized Jewish cemetery

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WASHINGTON — Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday strongly condemned a recent spate of anti-Semitism before visiting a vandalized cemetery outside of St. Louis.

Alongside Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens, Pence stopped by Chesed Shel Emeth cemetery in University City — where a vandal or vandals toppled and damaged more than 100 headstones in the past week.

Pence’s boss, President Donald Trump, was criticized for not speaking out sooner against anti-Semitism, but on Tuesday the President called bomb threats at 48 Jewish Community Centers in the US last month and other recent anti-Semitic incidents “horrible” and “painful.”

Pence, for his part, offered an unprompted message after receiving a tour of the Fabick Cat distribution center a mere 16 miles from the cemetery.

“We condemn this vile act of vandalism and those who perpetrate it in the strongest possible terms,” he said to applause, before recalling his recent visit to a concentration camp in Dachau, Germany. “We saw firsthand what happens when hatred runs rampant in a society.”

Pence told the story of the Americans who liberated the camp and how welcome they were in the eyes of the Jews who were imprisoned there.

Later, the vice president and Greitens, with their suit jackets off and sleeves rolled up, walked the grounds with Anita Feigenbaum, the executive director of the cemetery. The group surveyed the area, which was for the most part restored, with headstones turned upright. The Missouri governor had organized the volunteer event, posting it on his Facebook page the day before. About 100 volunteers participated in Wednesday’s event.

Brandishing a bullhorn at the cemetery, Pence thanked the governor and the workers who are repairing the headstones.

“There is no place in America for hatred or acts of prejudice or violence or anti-Semitism,” he said. “You just make us all proud.”

Pence’s conduct and words earned him a laudatory statement from the Anne Frank Center, which had been tough on Trump for his response to the anti-Semitism Tuesday.

“We call them as we see them. Today, Vice President Pence proved to be the ultimate mensch by visiting, and even cleaning, the desecrated Jewish graves in St. Louis,” executive director Steven Goldman said. “This administration finally showed America the kind of response our nation was waiting for all along — a response filled with proactive heart.”

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