Anti-Semitic Acts Climb On Campuses


Rick Dorfman may be the human face of the latest findings in
the Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) annual report of anti-Semitic incidents
across the country.

Though the incident had not yet been confirmed by police as
anti-Semitic by press time, the University of Michigan junior was punched in
the head by a stranger at a bowling alley outside Ann Arbor, Mich., on Monday
while wearing a pro-Israel shirt.

A key finding in the ADL’s Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents,
publicly released this month, showed anti-Semitic incidents on college campuses
climbed to 106 in 2002, an increase of 24 percent over 2001.

Overall, the report showed a slight increase in activity
over the previous year, with 1,559 anti-Jewish incidents reported in 2002, up
from 1,432 in 2001.

Referring to the group’s June survey on anti-Semitism, which
showed an increase in anti-Semitic attitudes that reversed a 10-year decline,
Myrna Shinbaum, ADL’s director of media relations, said, “It’s not surprising
to see that some of these attitudes have been acted out.”

According to Abraham Foxman, ADL’s national director,
unprecedented security at Jewish institutions in the aftermath of the Sept. 11,
2001, terrorist attacks has prevented more incidents.

“Certainly in New York,” he said, “there’s a much greater
awareness than in many other cities,” because of the high number of “Jews and
Jewish institutions and law enforcement’s concern and awareness. We are deeply
concerned that despite the strides we have made over the years, anti-Semitic
incidents continue to be carried out in large numbers.”Â

The audit revealed a mixed picture in states across the
country, with some states showing an increase in the number of incidents and
others showing a drop.

There was a dramatic increase in the reported number of
attacks against Jews and Jewish institutions in California. In California, the
most significant increase was noted in the San Francisco Bay Area. While the
Southern California regions did not experience dramatic change, the only fatal
anti-Semitic eventoccurred in Los Angeles on July 4th at LAX. “We remain
vigilant and concerned, especially in light of the events taking place around
the world,” said Amanda Susskind, Regional Director of the Pacific Southwest
Regional office of the Anti-Defamation League.

The number of incidents in New York, the state with the most
anti-Semitic activity in the country, decreased 25 percent. State variations
depend on local situations and local culture, according to Shinbaum.

The ADL audit, published since 1988, breaks down
anti-Semitic incidents into two categories. One is harassment, defined as
“threats and assaults directed at individuals and institutions,” which
comprised 75 percent of incidents reported. The other category is vandalism,
which includes cemetery desecration or anti-Semitic graffiti.

Information is compiled from official crime statistics,
along with reports to ADL’s 30 regional offices from victims, community leaders
and law enforcement officials.

The long-term trends point to less anti-Semitism in the country
as the United States becomes more sophisticated and better educated. However,
certain world events, like the current Palestinian intifada, have spiked
anti-Israel activity, which, in some cases, results in increased anti-Semitic
activity, according to those who track such developments. Most incidents occur
where there are large Jewish populations.

The rise of campus activity marked the third year of an
upward trend, according to the ADL. Many of the events grew out of anti-Israel
demonstrations on campus.

For example, among the episodes reported were a vandalized
sukkah at the University of Colorado. The incident followed a campus visit by
Palestinian spokeswoman Hanan Ashrawi.

“Regional hostilities have often created a trigger or excuse
for anti-Israel and anti-Jewish activity off the campus, as well on campus, and
we saw a number of disturbing incidents first semester, which were largely
addressed immediately by the university officials,” said Wayne Firestone,
director of the Israel on Campus Coalition, a coordinating body for Jewish
groups working on campus.

However, it’s important to put the data in perspective, he
said.

“In real numbers, it’s not a huge amount of activity,”
Firestone said, noting that the report indicated 100 incidents on several
thousand campuses. “Overall, campuses are a safe and supportive environment for
Jewish students in America. On the other hand, we have to be more vigilant at
times of regional tension [in the Middle East].”

Among the audit’s other findings, reports of anti-Semitic
incidents in the San Francisco Bay Area rose dramatically. In 2002, a total of
118 incidents were reported, up from 13 the previous year. Incidents directed
at Jewish institutions rose from one to 39.

Overall, reports of vandalism reached a 20-year low, with
531 reported incidents in 2002. Over the past three years, vandalism incidents
have declined 27 percent. According to the ADL, the decrease is a result of
increased security measures, while would-be vandals may find outlets elsewhere,
like the Internet.

While the ADL said that it could not quantify anti-Semitic
activity on the Internet, the group noted that the Internet “continued to play
a substantial role in the dissemination of anti-Semitism, with hate literature
being transmitted through hundreds of sites on the Web.”

The states showing the largest numbers of reported incidents
in 2002 were New York, with 302, down from 408 the previous year; New Jersey,
171, down from 192; Massachussetts, 129, up from 126; Pennsylvania, 101, up
from 61; and Florida, 93, down from 115. Â