Antisemitic hate crimes in California increase by 32%, report shows

According to the Executive Summary of Hate Crime in California, from 2020 to 2021, the number of hate crimes rose from 115 to 152. 

 Illustrative of the US and California state flags. (photo credit: PXHERE)
Illustrative of the US and California state flags.
(photo credit: PXHERE)

There is a record increase in anti-Jewish crimes in California, California's Attorney-General Rob Bonta showed in the Executive Summary of Hate Crime in California study released on Tuesday.  

According to the report, a hate crime is “a criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity.” From 2020 to 2021, the number of hate crimes rose from 115 to 152, at an increase of 32.2%, the report states. 

The report also noted that anti-Catholic acts increased from 6 to 16 over the same time span. An overall increase in attacks involving religious bias is closely associated with the overall 89.6% increase in Californian hate crimes over the past decade. 

What do the stats mean for the public?

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), the US-based antisemitism tracker, reported a 217% rise in attacks in the Los Angeles area — with a total of 367 incidents — as California, and the US, reach all-time highs. 

 California Governor Gavin Newsom speaks after the polls close on the recall election, at the California Democratic Party headquarters in Sacramento, California, US, September 14, 2021.  (credit: REUTERS/FRED GREAVES) California Governor Gavin Newsom speaks after the polls close on the recall election, at the California Democratic Party headquarters in Sacramento, California, US, September 14, 2021. (credit: REUTERS/FRED GREAVES)

“We’re seeing a new, but unfortunately age-old, kind of epidemic in our city – and it is one of antisemitic hatred,” said Jeffrey I. Abrams, regional director of ADL. “These heinous acts of harassment, vandalism, and propaganda all cause a ripple effect, with the perpetrators seeking to instill fear among not just the Jewish community, but all minority and marginalized communities. And this we cannot, and will not, tolerate.”

“These heinous acts of harassment, vandalism, and propaganda all cause a ripple effect, with the perpetrators seeking to instill fear among not just the Jewish community, but all minority and marginalized communities. And this we cannot, and will not, tolerate.”

Jeffrey I. Abrams, regional director of ADL

However, California isn’t the only US state experiencing a rise in antisemitism. 2,717 attacks were recorded in 2021, with one in every four Jews falling victim to such attacks over the past year, according to the American Jewish Community (AJC), a global Jewish advocacy organization. 

Which states have the most antisemitic incidents?

Research from Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies reveals that Florida, Washington, and Illinois are among the states with the highest number of antisemitic attacks.

Most recently, residents of Portsmouth, New Hampshire woke up to neo-Nazi flyers on their lawns early Sunday morning. Those responsible for the crime — members of the Nationalist Socialist Club — describe themselves as “soldiers at war with a hostile, Jewish-controlled system that is deliberatively plotting the extinction of the white race,” according to ADL. 

Only one day before, antisemitic packages were distributed in several homes in two California neighborhoods, Los Gatos and Monte Sereno, while an Israeli restaurant in Los Angeles was vandalized with swastikas. 

Why are antisemitic incidents occurring?

A divisive political climate, loss of memory about the Holocaust, and hostility towards Israel are among the contributing factors to antisemitism in the US today. 

Only recently, California Governor Gavin Newsom announced a Council on Holocaust and Genocide Education in 2021, claiming that surveys have revealed a “shocking decline” in awareness among young people about the Holocaust. 

That same year, Bonta, alongside other elected officials, denounced the increasing wave of antisemitism, stating that he was “saddened that the Jewish American community does not feel safe and does not feel secure,” and adding that he will do his part to change that.

The California Hate Crime Report, however, does not include crimes relating to hate speech, although antisemitic slurs continue to play a large role in anti-Jewish hate. 

“The US constitution allows hate speech as long as it does not interfere with the civil rights of others. While these acts are certainly hurtful, they do not rise to the level of criminal violations and thus may not be prosecuted,” states Bonta’s website.