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Headstones damaged in Jewish cemetery in Rochester

Rochester, N.Y. (WHAM) - As many as 16 headstones were damaged between Wednesday and Thursday inside a Jewish cemetery in Rochester.

A spokesperson for Waad Hakolel Cemetery said the damage was brought to their attention late Wednesday.

The Rochester Police Department said it is actively investigating, but does not yet have any suspects in custody.

Dozens of Jewish cemeteries have had headstones toppled and vandalized in the last few weeks, leading to outrage and calls for investigation by government and religious leaders.

In addition, several Jewish Community Centers (JCCs) have received bomb threats and other threatening phone calls, including centers in Syracuse and Buffalo.

On Friday morning, Crime Stoppers confirmed it will partner with the Anti-Defamation League to offer a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and successful prosecution of the individual or individuals responsible for damaging and defacing the headstones.

Senator Chuck Schumer and Governor Andrew Cuomo are among those who have condemned the acts.

The Ahmadiyya Muslim Community issued a statement Thursday afternoon, stating their support for the Jewish community in Rochester and condemning the damage done inside the cemetery.

“This rise in anti-Semitic language and behavior is very concerning. Members from our Rochester chapter are in route to assist in any way,” said Dr. Nasim Rehmatullah, national vice president for the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA. “We call on all Americans to stand united against this hatred and extremism.”

Governor Cuomo directed New York State Police's Hate Crimes Task Force to investigate the incident.

“New York has zero tolerance for bias or discrimination of any kind, and we will always stand united in the face of anti-Semitism and divisiveness," Cuomo said in a statement Thursday. "It is repugnant to everything we believe as New Yorkers, and we will continue to do everything in our power to bring to justice those responsible for these cowardly attacks on the values we hold dear.”

The Rochester Police Department said it "takes very seriously any potential act of anti-Semitism or any other bias-related incident."

Anyone with information about this incident should contact 911 or Crime Stoppers at 423-9300.

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