Watchdog: Anti-Semitic Incidents Surge 60% in US

Washington Cemetery in the New York burough of Brooklyn
Tombstones overturned in Washington Cemetery in the New York burough of Brooklyn were among a rising number of anti-Semitic incidents in the United States in 2017. Photo: AFP

The United States saw a near 60 percent increase in the number of anti-Semitic incidents last year, with a particularly disturbing rise at schools and universities, the Anti-Defamation League said Tuesday.

The ADL, which fights anti-Semitism, said it was the biggest increase in a single year since the organization began tracking data in 1970s. For the first time in at least eight years, every single US state was also affected, its annual report added.

The group identified 1,986 anti-Semitic incidents perpetrated throughout the country in 2017, an increase of 57 percent over the 1,267 incidents reported in 2016.

“A confluence of events in 2017 led to a surge in attacks on our community — from bomb threats, cemetery desecrations, white supremacists marching in Charlottesville, and children harassing children at school,” said ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt. “These incidents came at a time when we saw a rising climate of incivility, the emboldening of hate groups and widening divisions in society.”

President Donald J. Trump came under heavy criticism last February for remaining silent for several days over more than 100 threats made just weeks apart against Jewish schools and other institutions. He later condemned them as “horrible” and “painful.” Critics say his November 2016 election and rise to office has emboldened extreme right, neo-Nazi groups and those with racist agendas.

The ADL said the highest concentration of recorded anti-Semitism took place in New York, California and New Jersey, home to large Jewish populations. There was an 86 percent increase in incidents of vandalism and harassment was up 41 percent, including the spree of bomb threats in early 2017, it added.

While the number of assaults fell by 47 percent to 19 in 2017, the ADL’s annual report noted a dramatic increase in anti-Semitism at schools from kindergarten through grade 12. In 2017, those schools surpassed public areas as the place recording the most anti-Semitism. The number of incidents at schools rose 94 percent over 235 incidents recorded at grade schools in 2016, the report found. Anti-Semitic incidents on college and university campuses were up 89 percent.

“The consistent increase of anti-Semitic incidents against students of all ages is deeply troubling,” Mr. Greenblatt said. “For every incident that’s reported, it is likely there’s another that goes unreported.”

A former journalist from Missouri was jailed last December for making a dozen hoax threats to Jewish community centers. A Jewish teenager in Israel was also charged in connection with making the threats.