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July 14, 2017 1:35 pm

Group Associated With BDS Activist Linda Sarsour Announces Intention to Turn Over Funds Promised to Historic Jewish Cemetery

avatar by Rachel Frommer

Celebrate Mercy founder Tarek El-Messidi at the Golden Hill Cemetery in April. Photo: Celebrate Mercy.

An organization associated with Palestinian-American BDS activist Linda Sarsour announced its intention on Wednesday to turn over funds promised to a historic Jewish cemetery in Colorado, one day after The Algemeiner revealed that the cemetery had yet to see the money a full four months after the campaign — which raised over $160,000 — was launched.

Celebrate Mercy — an Islamic education non-profit founded by Imam Tarek El-Messidi — posted on Facebook that the Golden Hill Cemetery will be the recipient of a “large portion” of the over $100,000 remaining from a campaign originally launched in February on Muslim crowdfunding site LaunchGood, money raised to aid in the restoration of vandalized Jewish cemeteries.

For years, Golden Hill has been seeking funds to clean up and secure its inactive historic section, where some 800 graves mark the burial spots of mostly impoverished tuberculosis victims from the 19th and 20th centuries.

Though cemetery officials said they had not heard back from Celebrate Mercy after multiple attempts to make contact, the group claimed in its social media statement that “Cemetery directors have sent a detailed funding request and are currently working on sending a revised version of that proposal.”

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The statement also suggested that the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, which was observed May 26-June 24, was a primary cause of the lack of communication between the cemetery’s caretakers and Celebrate Mercy’s crowdfunding campaigners, among whom Sarsour was prominently featured.

As The Algemeiner reported on Tuesday, the cemetery’s executive director had left three unreturned voicemails for El-Messidi over many weeks, including at least one call made before the start of Ramadan.

The Algemeiner understands that since its first report was published on Tuesday, initial contact has been made by Celebrate Mercy with the executive director of the cemetery.

The campaign organizers have also promised to update their crowdfunding page with “regular fund disbursement updates at least monthly.”

“Given the scale and large costs of this restoration, we are doing our due diligence to all the campaign donors to carefully evaluate all proposed costs and set up a disbursement schedule for the funds based on achieved milestones,” Celebrate Mercy wrote on Facebook. “Our target is that this cemetery will be fully restored by spring or summer of 2018 — mostly funded by our campaign.”

The emergence of crowdfunding as a popular fundraising mechanism has come with pitfalls, with several cases of fraud being prosecuted in the US since 2015.

One expert report noted that most of those who solicit investment on such sites for their projects do not intend to commit outright fraud, but can find themselves “overpromising and underdelivering.”

“The problem goes like this: an entrepreneurial group of people plan, launch, and execute a successful crowdfunding campaign,” wrote The Balance in August 2016. “Problem is, that’s just the beginning of the whole process. Now, this team needs to manufacture and ship its product and that can literally take years to happen.”

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