Antisemitic assaults in U.S. doubled in 2018, ADL report finds

Total number of antisemitic attacks down 5% from 2017's record high, but still nearly double 2015 levels.

A crowd watches on screen the funeral for Lori Gilbert-Kaye, the sole fatality of the Saturday synagogue shooting at the Congregation Chabad synagogue in Poway, north of San Diego, California, U.S. April 29, 2019 (photo credit: JOHN GASTALDO/REUTERS)
A crowd watches on screen the funeral for Lori Gilbert-Kaye, the sole fatality of the Saturday synagogue shooting at the Congregation Chabad synagogue in Poway, north of San Diego, California, U.S. April 29, 2019
The number of Jews physically assaulted in the US has more than doubled in 2018 compared to the 2017 figures, the ADL reported on Tuesday.
The Anti-Defamation League’s annual report on antisemitic incidents in the US comes in the wake of the antisemitic shooting by a white supremacist at a Chabad synagogue in Poway, California, last week, as well as the worst attack ever against Jews in the US at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh in October.
Noticeably, the report found that the number of antisemitic incidents in 2018 perpetrated by far-right and white supremacist groups, as well as individuals inspired by such ideologies, was the highest since 2004.
At the same time, a significant proportion of incidents were accompanied by rhetoric against the State of Israel and Zionism, while antisemitism on US college campuses continued to represent a considerable source of anti-Jewish events.
The precise number of far-left and anti-Zionist antisemitic incidents is however not reported, as the identity of people who perpetrate such attacks is much harder to determine, the ADL said.
“We’ve worked hard to push back against antisemitism, and succeeded in improving hate crime laws, and yet we continue to experience an alarmingly high number of antisemitic acts,” said Jonathan Greenblatt, ADL’s CEO and national director.
“We unfortunately saw this trend continue into 2019 with the tragic shooting at the Chabad synagogue in Poway. 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.”
Although physical assaults were noticeably up in 2018, the total number of antisemitic incidents in the country actually decreased slightly, although 2018 has the third-highest number of antisemitic incidents on record since ADL started tracking such data in the 1970s.
In total, there was a total of 1,879 attacks against Jews and Jewish institutions in 2018, compared to 1,986 in 2017, a decrease of 5%.
The ADL noted however that despite this small decline, the number of incidents in 2018 remained at near-historic levels – 48% higher than the total for 2016 and 99% higher than in 2015.
ADL’s annual audit classifies all incidents into three categories: assault, harassment and vandalism.
Of the total incidents reported in 2018, there were 39 incidents of assault compared to 19 in 2017; 1,066 incidents of antisemitic harassment, a 5% increase from 1,015 in 2017; and 774 incidents of antisemitic vandalism, down 19% from 952 in 2017.
In the 39 incidents of assault, a total of 59 Jewish individuals were assaulted, including the 11 people killed and two wounded in the Pittsburgh attack, up from 21 in 2017.
Aside from the Pittsburgh attack, the assaults included knife attacks, vehicular ramming, choking and punching attacks, and objects thrown at victims.
One bright spot noted by the report however was the 25% decrease in antisemitic incidents in kindergartens and elementary and high schools over the 2017 numbers.
Of the total 1,879 antisemitic incidents, 249, or 13%, emanated from far-right and white supremacist groups such as the Daily Stormer Book Clubs and the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, the highest level of such incidents since 2004 when there were 128 similar incidents.
And there were 140 antisemitic incidents in 2018 that referenced Israel or Zionism, 95 of which related to white supremacist activity, including 80 robocalls in California in support of Patrick Little, a far-right antisemitic congressional candidate.
Other instances in which Israel and Zionism were referenced in antisemitic incidents included references to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, such as the words “Free Gaza” spray-painted on the walls of a sukkah in September.
There were also 201 antisemitic incidents on college campuses, an almost identical number to the 204 incidents in 2017, although 86% higher than the 108 reported incidents in 2016.
In addition to the shooting in Pittsburgh, there were high levels of white supremacist activity in 2018, including the dissemination of propaganda on college campuses and in communities, and hateful robocalls aimed at voters.
“Jews truly are a canary in coal mine when it comes to the state of hate generally in society. When antisemitism is on the rise typically so too are other forms of intolerance,” Greenblatt said Tuesday.
“In 2019, in a climate when Muslims and immigrants are being scapegoated, when members of Congress are repeating antisemitic tropes, at a time when white supremacists are emboldened like never before as we saw in Poway, there are real concerns as to where we are headed as a country and a society.”
Greenblatt said that to “put the lid back on the sewers of hate,” leaders of all types must denounce antisemitism and hate, not only after an attack or crisis but long before there such incidents occur.
“We must reinforce our shared values every day such as decency, fairness, pluralism, and respect for all people regardless of their faith and race.”

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