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By Grace Carr
Muslim activists Linda Sarsour and Tarek El-Messidi led a high-profile fundraiser in an effort to restore vandalized Jewish cemeteries, promising money to burial grounds across the US, but so far they have failed to deliver on their promise.
Neil Price of the Golden Hill Cemetery in Colorado said he left three voicemails Tuesday for Tarek El-Messidi — the founder of non-profit Islamic education organization Celebrate Mercy — but none was returned. Price is the primary caretaker of the Colorado cemetery and has tried for over 35 years to raise money to restore the cemetery’s graves.
“The Jewish community has many needs, and the focus is mostly on the needs of the living, or the active part of the cemetery,” he said.
El-Messidi and Sarsour made public announcements in February that a large portion of the money raised from their campaign “Muslims Unite to Repair Jewish Cemetery” would go to the Golden Hill cemetery.
“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,” reads the campaign’s website. “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.”
The $200,000 goal “did not appear to have been reached” by the end of campaign May 31, said Algemeiner.
El-Messidi took a tour of the cemetery in April and seemed “willing and ready to give the money,” according to Algemeiner but did not communicate with Celebrate Mercy after the visit.
Concerns about El-Messidi and Sarsour’s handling of the money were also raised in May when Jewish New York Assemblyman Dov Hikind wrote, “How much of that money — if any — actually went to these cemeteries?” on Facebook. Sarsour accused Hikind of “put[ting] out lies … without any backup, to cast doubt and to defame me,” in response.
Price told Algemeiner he doesn’t think the money will ever come.