US Election: Jewish cemetery vandalised with ‘TRUMP’ and ‘MAGA’ graffiti

The latest Jewish News

Read this week’s digital edition

Click Here

US Election: Jewish cemetery vandalised with ‘TRUMP’ and ‘MAGA’ graffiti

100-year-old cemetery belonging to Ahavas Israel vandalised on the weekend, with its rabbi saying 'there was nothing spray-painted that indicated anything specifically antisemitic'

Vandalism at the  Ahavas Israel Jewish Cemetery Vandalism Photos (Credit Ed Miller/ADL)
Vandalism at the Ahavas Israel Jewish Cemetery Vandalism Photos (Credit Ed Miller/ADL)

A Jewish cemetery in Michigan was graffitied with the words “TRUMP” and “MAGA.”

The graffiti comes days before the presidential election, in which Michigan is a key swing state, and soon before President Donald Trump’s final campaign rally, which will be held in the Grand Rapids area on Monday.

The 100-year-old cemetery in the western Michigan city of Grand Rapids belongs to Congregation Ahavas Israel, a Conservative synagogue. Rabbi David Krishef says the vandalism was discovered Monday and is presumed to have occurred over the weekend.

Krishef said police had been contacted about the vandalism. But both he and the Anti-Defamation League’s local director both said it was too soon to call the vandalism an act of antisemitism.

“It’s Halloween weekend, there was nothing spray-painted that indicated anything specifically antisemitic,” Krishef told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency Monday. “Whoever did this may or may not have known that this was a Jewish cemetery.”

Vandalism at the Ahavas Israel Jewish Cemetery Vandalism Photos (Credit Ed Miller/ADL)

He added, “I don’t want to blow this up into a known and definite incident of antisemitism. We don’t know that it was.”

According to photos posted to Twitter by the Anti-Defamation League’s office in Michigan, several gravestones were tagged with red paint reading “TRUMP” and “MAGA,” an abbreviation for Trump’s campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again.”

The vandalism occurred days before Election Day in a swing state that both the Trump and Biden campaigns have fought for.  It also comes roughly one year after the city’s Reform synagogue, Temple Emanuel, was vandalised with neo-Nazi posters by an extremist group, including one that read “A crusade against Semite led subhumans.”

Vandalism at the Ahavas Israel Jewish Cemetery Vandalism Photos (Credit Ed Miller/ADL)

While that case was a clear instance of antisemitism, said Carolyn Normandin, regional director of ADL Michigan, the vandalism at the Ahavas Israel cemetery isn’t as clear-cut. But she said the ADL will continue looking into the incident.

“It was definitely vandalism and it was definitely political in nature but we have no reason to call this straight up antisemitism because there were no antisemitic symbols on the gravestones that were vandalised,” Normandin said. “We’re taking it seriously because it was a Jewish cemetery and there were no other cemeteries or communal buildings in the area that were vandalised at the same time. Why did the vandals choose this cemetery?”

Homeland security officials as well as Jewish security specialists at the ADL and elsewhere have warned of extremist activity surrounding the voting. Last month, a group of extremists was arrested for plotting to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. The alleged leader of the group is from the Grand Rapids area. The leader of another extremist group, a neo-Nazi group that vandalised another synagogue, was arrested last week in another part of Michigan.

Normandin said that to label the cemetery vandalism as an extremist incident would be “a bridge too far” because “there’s nothing to indicate that this was done by an extremist group.”

Krishef said the cemetery has never been targeted with vandalism before. Ahavas Israel is a 120-member-unit congregation that is 125 years old. The city of 200,000 has a Jewish community of just fewer than 1,000, Krishef said.

The vandalism came shortly before Trump was set to hold the closing rally of his 2020 campaign in Grand Rapids. In a statement regarding the vandalism, the Michigan Democratic Jewish Caucus said that “this heinous act was committed on the eve of the 2020 election to send an intimidating message to the president’s opponents, and particularly, Jewish voters,” and added that the “Grand Rapids’ Jewish community will not be cowed by this vile attack on Ahavas Israel.”

JTA has reached out to the Grand Rapids Police Department for more information.



Support your Jewish community. Support your Jewish News

Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.

Unlike other Jewish media, we do not charge for content. That won’t change. Because we are free, we rely on advertising to cover our costs. This vital lifeline, which has dropped in recent years, has fallen further due to coronavirus.

For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.

Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.

You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.

100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...


Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.


There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.


In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.


Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish News also produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.

Easy access

In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.

Voice of our community to wider society

The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.

We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.

read more: