Anti-Semitic incidents nationwide increased nearly 60 percent from 2016 to 2017, the “largest one-year jump in recent history,” according to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).
In 2017, 1,986 anti-Semitic instances of assault, harassment or vandalism were reported in the U.S., up from 1,267 cases in 2016.
The ADL reported its findings in its annual “Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents,” released on Feb. 27.
“Anti-Semitism is nonpartisan,” ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said in a conference call held in conjunction with the report’s release. “It can come from the extreme right or extreme left, whether it can arise out of events like Charlottesville, or the debate over the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, or from the likes of Louis Farrakhan. It has many manifestations and sources. We don’t know why this [increase] happened, but we try to monitor it. And we believe that in monitoring it, we can find new ways to fight back.”
The data for 2017 recorded “the second-highest number of incidents that the ADL has seen in any year since we started tracking this,” Greenblatt said. “Incidents peaked in 1994, the year of the Oslo Accords, the year that was characterized by violent anti-Semitism in New York and around the country.”
In California, 268 anti-Semitic incidents were reported in 2017, up from 211 in 2016 — an increase of 27 percent, the ADL said.
Amanda Susskind said the latest audit’s findings should be of concern to all communities, not only Jews.
The civil rights organization has conducted an audit every year since 1979 of criminal and noncriminal acts of anti-Semitism. The audit does not include online expressions of hate but reports exclusively on real-time physical incidents, including vandalism, assault and harassment.
ADL Regional Director Amanda Susskind in Los Angeles, in a phone interview with the Journal, attributed the increase of incidents in part to the “failure of moral leadership in the highest levels [of government] in this country.”
High schools and colleges, in particular, experienced a sharp increase in reported acts of anti-Semitism from 2016 to 2017, according to the audit. A total of 204 anti-Semitic incidents were reported on college campuses in 2017, compared with 108 in 2016, the ADL said.
Susskind linked the increase of anti-Semitic acts at schools to the growing normalization of cyber hate.
“Very often, vitriolic stuff happening online seems to be setting a tone among the young population,” she said. “Maybe that is why it is so bad on high school and college campuses, where it seems to be acceptable to be using this kind of rhetoric.”
In California, there were 108 anti-Semitic acts of vandalism in 2017, up from 77 in 2016, the ADL said. Among them was a December incident at Temple Aliyah in Woodland Hills, in which a swastika was spray-painted on the guard booth at the synagogue’s entrance.
More than 150 harassment incidents occurred in California in 2017, up from 128 in 2016, including the mailing of an anti-Semitic letter to the Jewish owners of the Los Angeles Diamond Factory in October, the ADL said. The letter contained a swastika, racial and homophobic epithets and the slogan “Make America Great Again.”
Nationwide, 1,015 incidents of harassment occurred in 2017, including 163 bomb threats targeting Jewish community centers, schools and other institutions. Authorities arrested an Israeli-American teenager in connection with many of the bomb threats, all of which turned out to be hoaxes. Nevertheless, Susskind said the ADL still considered the incidents to be anti-Semitic.
“We don’t count anti-Semites; we try to document cases where Jews are targeted for assault, vandalism or harassment,” she said. “It doesn’t matter what the motivation of any specific perpetrator is — if the Jewish community is traumatized, as they were when the bomb threats came though, it counts for us.”
Susskind said the latest audit’s findings should be of concern to all communities, not only Jews.
“This is not going away, this is not a problem of history and something you only read about in school books,” she said. “This is a real-time problem. Anti-Semitism is often called the ‘canary in the coal mine,’ and is often a precursor or predictor of more pernicious or apparent hate and bigotry in society.
“We do think it is something we should be taking seriously.”