Anti-Semitic Incidents Reached Record Level In 2019, Anti-Defamation League Says

The Four Percent

Anti-Semitic incidents hit a four-decade high last year, according to an Anti-Defamation League report released Tuesday.

The ADL recorded 2,107 incidents of assault, vandalism and harassment against American Jews in 2019 ― higher than in any year since the Jewish advocacy group began tracking anti-Semitic incidents in 1979.

The uptick included a 56% increase in assaults compared with the previous year, a surge marked by deadly attacks at a synagogue in Southern California, a kosher market in New Jersey and a rabbi’s home in New York. In total, the ADL counted 61 physical assault cases directly linked to anti-Semitic hatred last year. Five people were killed.

Over half of last year’s anti-Semitic assaults took place in New York City, with 25 happening in Brooklyn, the ADL reported. Jewish communities in New York sounded alarms throughout last year about Hasidic Jews being attacked while walking through their Brooklyn neighborhoods, culminating in a flurry of assaults during Hanukkah. 

A rabbi’s home in Monsey, New York, north of Manhattan, was the site of a stabbing during a Hanukkah celebration on Dec. 29, 2019.

The ADL also recorded 919 acts of vandalism, a 19% increase from 2018, and 1,127 incidents of harassment, a 6% increase. 

Jonathan A. Greenblatt, the CEO of the league, said that these attacks have contributed to a “rising climate of anxiety and fear in our communities.” 

In fact, an ADL survey from January found that nearly two-thirds of Jews reported feeling less safe than they did a decade ago. Most (51%) said they were worried about a violent attack or vandalism at their synagogue.

“It’s clear we must remain vigilant in working to counter the threat of violent antisemitism and denounce it in all forms, wherever the source and regardless of the political affiliation of its proponents,” Greenblatt said in a statement. 

A couple embraces at a memorial near the Chabad of Poway synagogue in Poway, California, on April 29, 2019. A gunman opened fire on the synagogue as about 100 people were there during Passover.

Most of the perpetrators were not linked to extremist groups, according to Oren Segal, vice president of the ADL’s Center on Extremism.

“The perpetrators that we know of are often your Average Janes, your Average Joes,” Segal said during a Tuesday news conference, according to The Times of Israel. “They are kids, they are adults; they’re in poor areas, they come from more affluent areas; it’s online, it’s offline. These incidents are not constrained by politics or even ideology. This report, which comes out every year, shows how anti-Semitism can be found in pretty much all segments in society.”

The ADL’s annual anti-Semitism audit counted both criminal and non-criminal acts of harassment. The report was compiled using information provided by victims, law enforcement and community leaders, the group said.

In order to stem the rise of anti-Semitism, the ADL is calling on Congress to increase funding for security enhancements for at-risk houses of worship and other institutions. The group is also calling on lawmakers to bolster law enforcement officials’ ability to document and respond to hate crimes. 

The ADL has not yet quantified anti-Semitic incidents that have occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic. But Greenblatt said that new manifestations of anti-Semitism are emerging. He pointed to instances of “Zoombombings” of virtual Jewish gatherings and to extremists displaying Nazi imagery at anti-lockdown protests.

“As with any public health crisis, we’re deeply concerned that as things get harder for folks economically, there’s a real risk of Jews being blamed and scapegoated,” Greenblatt said during the news conference. “We’ve already seen manifestations of this, and if you look to Jewish history, we clearly have good reason for concern in these hateful times.” 

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