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The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) said in a new report today that the number of anti-Semitic incidents was nearly 60 percent higher in 2017 than 2016, the largest single-year increase on record and the second highest number reported since ADL started tracking incident data in the 1970s.

The sharp rise, reported in ADL’s Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents, was in part due to a significant increase in incidents in schools and on college campuses, which nearly doubled for the second year in a row.

There were 1,986 anti-Semitic incidents reported across the United States in 2017, including physical assaults, vandalism, and attacks on Jewish institutions. That figure represents a 57 percent increase over the 1,267 incidents in 2016. Every part of the country was affected, with an incident reported in all 50 states for the first time in at least a decade.

“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 Jonathan A. Greenblatt, ADL CEO and National Director. “These incidents came at a time when we saw a rising climate of incivility, the emboldening of hate groups and widening divisions in society. In reflecting on this time and understanding it better with this new data, we feel even more committed to our century-old mission to stop the defamation of the Jewish people, and to secure justice and fair treatment to all.”

INCIDENTS

Since 1979, ADL has counted anti-Semitic incidents in the U.S. and reported the numbers in its annual Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents. Last year, in response to concerns about rising anti-Semitism, ADL stepped up the frequency of reporting, issuing additional reports to share data more regularly throughout the year.

In 2017, according to ADL, there were:

  • 1,015 incidents of harassment, including 163 bomb threats against Jewish institutions, up 41 percent from 2016;
  • 952 incidents of vandalism, up 86 percent from 2016;
  • 19 physical assaults, down 47 percent from 2016.

The largest increase in 2017 was in the category of vandalism. The dramatic increase in anti-Semitic acts of vandalism is particularly concerning because it indicates perpetrators feel emboldened enough to break the law. In the vast majority of vandalism cases the perpetrators remain unidentified.

The three worst months were in first quarter of the year – with 208, 273, and 273 incidents in January, February, and March, respectively. These months include the 163 bomb threats against Jewish institutions.

Incidents took place in every state across the country, but consistent with prior reports, the states with the highest number of incidents tend to be those with the largest Jewish populations. These include New York (380 incidents); California (268); New Jersey (208); Massachusetts (177); Florida (98); and Pennsylvania (96).

According to the audit, there are myriad reasons why the numbers are rising. These include the fact that more people are reporting incidents to ADL than ever before. Anti-Semitic incidents took place in a wide variety of locations, including places of business, private homes, public areas such as parks and streets, Jewish institutions and schools and colleges/universities.

INCIDENTS IN SCHOOLS ON RISE

Anti-Semitic incidents in K-12 schools and college campuses in 2017 nearly doubled over 2016. There were 457 anti-Semitic incidents reported in non-Jewish schools, up from 235 in 2016 and 114 in 2015. Jewish institutions and schools also saw incidents double, jumping from 170 in 2016 to 342 last year. Meanwhile, college campuses saw a total of 204 incidents in 2017, compared to 108 in 2016.

“The consistent increase of anti-Semitic incidents against students of all ages is deeply troubling,” Greenblatt said. “We know that students do not always report when they are being bullied, so for every incident that’s reported, it is likely there’s another that goes unreported. This is why it is imperative for schools to have anti-bias and anti-bullying programs, and why we are committing to take our No Place for Hate program into more schools this year.”

CEMETERY VANDALISM

Jewish graves or cemeteries were desecrated seven times in 2017. The desecration of Jewish headstones is a classic anti-Semitic act employed for hundreds of years. The majority of the cemetery desecrations occurred in the first months of the year, at the same time as the bomb threats were called in to Jewish institutions, which contributed to a sense that the Jewish American community was under siege. One bright spot in this was the response of members of the Muslim and Christian faiths, who raised thousands of dollars to help repair the damaged tombstones.

HOW ADL IS RESPONDING

ADL has a comprehensive approach to address anti-Semitic incidents and behavior, including educating youth to prevent these behaviors and working with law enforcement to apprehend the perpetrators. ADL trains 15,000 law enforcement officials per year, provides anti-bias training widely, including to every new FBI agent, and reaches 1.5 million kids in schools with our anti-bias and anti-bullying training.

“We make government leaders and the public aware of anti-Semitism so we can counter it together,” said Greenblatt. “Anti-Semitism may be the oldest hatred, but it is deeply felt today and we will never give up on our important work to ensure our communities are safe for each and every one.”

ADL has recently announced expansions in its work to counter cyber hate with a new center in Silicon Valley in recognition of the close connection between the rise in hate online and the rise of hate incidents in our communities.

POLICY RECOMMENDATIONS

In response to the historic rise in anti-Semitic incidents, ADL is sharing the following policy recommendations with members of Congress and other government leaders:

  • Congress should pass legislation to expand federal protections against bomb threats to religious institutions. The House of Representatives approved this legislation, HR 1730, in December. The Senate must now act and send the measure to the President to sign.
  • Public officials and law enforcement authorities must use their bully pulpit to speak out against anti-Semitic incidents – and all acts of hate. These officials must support efforts to punish this conduct to the fullest extent of the law, while providing comfort and assistance to individual victims and community members.
  • Victims and bystanders should report all anti-Semitic incidents and vandalism to the Anti-Defamation League and to local police. If we expect law enforcement officials and community members to take these incidents seriously, we must take them seriously – and report them, both to ADL and to the police.
  • College and university administrators, faculty, and staff must receive the necessary training to effectively respond to anti-Semitic incidents, hate crimes, hate speech, and extremism on campus. Campus officials have a moral obligation to speak out against hate. Colleges and universities must build an institution for learning that works toward inclusion and equity while also ensuring open expression and a marketplace for ideas

The ADL Audit includes both criminal and non-criminal acts of harassment and intimidation, including distribution of hate propaganda, threats, and slurs. Compiled using information provided by victims, law enforcement, and community leaders, and evaluated by ADL’s professional staff, the Audit provides a regular snapshot of one specific aspect of a nationwide problem while identifying possible trends or changes in the types of activity reported. This information assists ADL in developing and enhancing its programs to counter and prevent the spread of anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry.