California leads nation in anti-Semitic incidents

For the second year running, California led the nation in anti-Semitic incidents reported in the Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) 2010 Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents. Reports of anti-Jewish vandalism, harassment and physical assaults rose 8 percent in California between 2009 and 2010, from 275 to 297 reports, reflecting a national trend of a slight increase in incidents.

Using data gathered from local law enforcement and direct reports to its 30 regional offices, the ADL documented 1,239 incidents across the country in 2010, compared to 1,211 incidents in 2009.

This was the first national increase reported since the numbers hit a record high in 2004, when the United States experienced 1,821 incidents of anti-Semitism. Since 2004, the numbers have declined incrementally each year.

Amanda Susskind, ADL’s Pacific Southwest regional director, said she doesn’t dwell too much on the numbers, but the report points to a troubling trend.

“I think we are not watching closely enough at the lowest level where this is happening, so it’s starting to bubble up in other areas,” Susskind said. “It feels to me that there is a lot of stuff going on in schools, where Jewish students and teachers are being assaulted or vandalized or harassed. I think we are seeing a higher threshold of tolerance for disrespecting the Jewish people … and it’s infiltrating the mainstream sensitivity.”

Hateful words left unchecked can create an atmosphere conducive to anti-Jewish crimes, she warned. While hate crimes are down across the state, she said, hate crimes against Jews are up. In Los Angeles County in 2009, anti-Jewish hate crimes accounted for one out of five of total hate crimes and 88 percent of hate crimes targeting religious groups, according to the most recently available Hate Crime Report of the Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations.

An incident in the ADL Pacific Southwest Region that received international attention was the “Beat the Jew” game played by a group of students at La Quinta High School in May 2010.  The game, which was promoted through a Facebook page, involved students called “Nazis” in a car chasing a student running on foot called the “Jew.” 

Susskind said the list of incidents in California included a prevalence of name-calling — “dirty Jew,” “kike” and “f-ing Jew” — sometimes accompanied by physical threats or actual assaults. While the list included a handful of references to Israel, most of the incidents are what Susskind calls “traditional anti-Semitism.”

The report does not document anti-Semitism online, but Susskind said she sees a “correlation of acceptability” in online remarks against Jews and what happens in the real world.

In addition to calling out these incidents to raise awareness, ADL runs anti-bias programs at schools and in the workplace.

“And we’re hoping that parents will talk to their kids about these things. It is important for parents to discuss hatred and bigotry with kids, just like they discuss sex and drugs — they’re facts of life and we need to impart a strong sense of values to children,” Susskind said.

Nationally, the report included 22 physical assaults (down from 29 in 2009); 900 cases of anti-Semitic harassment, threats and events (up from 760 in 2009); and 317 cases of anti-Semitic vandalism (down from 422 in 2009).

“While we have come a long way in society as Jews have been accepted into the mainstream, America is still not immune to anti-Semitism and bigotry,” said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL national director. “The good news is that we have continued to enjoy a period of relative calm, where the overall numbers are mostly unchanged and the incidents isolated. But the bad news is that, for all our efforts to educate, to raise awareness and to legislate, anti-Jewish incidents remain a disturbing part of the American Jewish experience.”

Examples of incidents reported to the ADL Pacific Southwest Region in 2010 include:

• High-school student in Valley assaulted and called a name by another student. (March)
• In Santa Clarita, woman denigrated for being Jewish. When husband intervened, he was assaulted. (May)
• Man physically assaulted in Santa Monica while attacker yelled, “You dirty Jew” and “I hate all Jews.” (July)

• “Kill all Jews” graffiti at West Los Angeles bus stop. (January)
• Swastikas and SS lightning bolts in pedestrian tunnel near Valley synagogue. (January)
• “The Jew lives here” written in chalk on sidewalk in front of Sherman Oaks home. (March)
• Jewish teacher at middle school in Valley reported swastikas in her classroom and anti-Semitic threats. (April)
• Numerous 5-foot-tall swastikas painted on alley walls near rabbi’s residence in Mid-City. (June)
• “Jews” spray-painted in alley of home of Jewish resident of Beverly Hills. (June)
• Apartment resident in Riverside found small Nazi flag hanging from his mezuzah, along with “Heil Hitler” written on the wall next to the mezuzah. (October)

Source: Anti-Defamation League 2010 Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents