A woman bows her head in front of a memorial on October 28, 2018, at the Tree of Life synagogue after a shooting there left 11 people dead in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh on October 27.
(photo credit: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI / AFP)
Violent attacks on Jews and Jewish targets around the world rose in 2018, a report by the Kantor Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry released on Wednesday indicated.
According to the study, released in cooperation with the European Jewish Congress, the number of major violent cases globally jumped 13% last year, from 342 to 387. Those violent attacks were centered in the United States, which was home to more than 100 cases. In the United Kingdom, 68 cases were reported, followed by 35 each in France and Germany, 20 in Canada and more in Belgium, the Netherlands and Argentina.
Dr. Moshe Kantor, president of the EJC, said the situation could be best summed up as an “increasing sense of emergency among Jews in many countries around the world.”
Antisemitism around the world, he said Wednesday, “has recently progressed to the point of calling into question the very continuation of Jewish life in many parts of the world. As we saw with the second mass shooting of a synagogue in the US, many parts of the world that were previously regarded as safe no longer are.”
The EJC study said that 13 Jews were murdered in 2018, which includes the 11 killed in the shooting at the Pittsburgh Tree of Life synagogue in October. The other two murdered Jews in 2018 were Mirelle Knoll, a Holocaust survivor who was killed in Paris in March, and Blaze Bernstein, a student who was killed in California in January.
The study noted that in France, violent antisemitic incidents rose 74% over 2017, while they rose 59% in Australia and 60% in Italy. The study indicated that most of the cases are vandalism (56%), while 23% are threats and 14% are weaponless attacks.
Prof. Dina Porat, head of the Kantor Center at Tel Aviv University, said that while their statistics include events of 2018, the situation in 2019 is equally worrying.
“What has happened during the last four months is also a cause of concern,” she said. “In only the past two weeks, we’ve seen a conglomerate of antisemitic events, with the new murder in California, the setting fire to a yeshiva in Moscow and the burning of a puppet in Warsaw.”
Throughout 2018, Porat said, “we have seen among Jews worldwide, but especially in Western Europe and in Northern America, a rising concern, a rising feeling of insecurity – not only a feeling of physical insecurity, but also a feeling of doubting the belonging to the place, of being part of society around them.”
In a report issued on Tuesday, the Anti-Defamation League said that violent attacks against Jews doubled in the US in 2018, listing 39 incidents of assault against 59 individuals. Dr. Haim Fireberg, the Kantor Center’s director of research, said there is no discrepancy in the findings, as each study defines violence somewhat differently, and both saw a significant rise in attacks over studies in previous years.
While the experts on Wednesday did note that overall, incidents of violent antisemitism have decreased over the past decade, they stressed that the reason for that is not a cause for hope.
“The numbers – if they are lower, it’s because there is more protection, more intelligence services working,” said Porat. “It’s because the situation got worse to a point that police agencies are working to protect... community centers, synagogues and other Jewish areas.”
Porat said that in recent years, “less Jews go on the streets with a kippah, and this is why you have less cases of the most violent attacks. Let’s not delude ourselves that there is any improvement.”
Arie Zuckerman, the chairman of the board of the Kantor Center, echoed Porat’s sentiment. “Jews are living behind fences and walls today,” he said. “And even despite that, there is a rise in [antisemitic violence] in recent years.”
Zuckerman also pointed out that the most important statistic to note is that 80% of antisemitic attacks go unreported.
“Most Jews, for all sorts of reasons, prefer not to report such attacks,” Zuckerman said Wednesday. “What we present today, is really a partial picture of the real situation.”
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