New York, NY, June 1, 2009 … The number of anti-Semitic incidents in the United States declined for the fourth consecutive year, according to newly issued statistics from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). The League’s annual Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents, issued today, counted a total of 1,352 incidents of vandalism, harassment and physical assaults against Jewish individuals, property and community institutions in 2008, representing a 7 percent decline from the 1,460 incidents reported in 2007.
The Audit identified 37 physical assaults on Jewish individuals, 702 incidences of anti-Semitic vandalism, and 613 cases of harassment in 2008. They included acts against high-profile Jewish community institutions and communal properties, such as the repeated vandalism of the San Francisco Holocaust Memorial, and the desecration of dozens of graves at a Jewish cemetery in Chicago with swastikas and hate group symbols.
Of the total 1,352 incidents, 42 percent occurred at homes, private buildings or businesses, and 23 percent took place in educational establishments, including public and private schools and universities, according to the Audit.
“It is encouraging that the number of anti-Semitic incidents continues to decline, but the sheer volume of incidents reported and the violent nature of many of the physical assaults is a reminder that we cannot be complacent,” said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director. “Had law enforcement not thwarted the alleged terrorist bombing plot against synagogues in Riverdale, New York, it would have been a horrific anti-Semitic attack.”
The 2008 Audit comprises data from 44 states and the District of Columbia, including official crime statistics as well as information provided to ADL’s regional offices by victims, law enforcement officers and community leaders. The Audit identifies criminal acts, such as vandalism, violence and threats of violence, as well as non-criminal incidents of harassment and intimidation, including hate propaganda, leafleting and verbal slurs.
“The Audit is one barometer of anti-Semitism,” said Mr. Foxman. “The explosive expansion of the Internet and social-networking sites such as Facebook and YouTube has become a new frontier for anti-Semitism, and so anti-Jewish expression is hard to quantify in this environment. It’s here today, gone tomorrow, and back the next day.
“In 2008, the financial crisis brought about an increase in rhetoric targeting Jews, with letters in newspapers and on Web sites blaming Jews for the misdeeds of a select few, with Bernard Madoff topping the list,” added Mr. Foxman. “Hate groups and anti-Semites used the global economic downturn to breathe new life into old myths of greedy and money-hungry American Jews, and these took on a life of their own on the Internet and in the real world.”
Anti-Semitic incidents last peaked in 2004, when the League reported 1,821 incidents in the U.S.
For reporting purposes, the Audit divides anti-Semitic incidents into three categories: Anti-Semitic Assaults, involving violence against Jewish individuals or those thought to be Jewish; Vandalism, such as property damage, cemetery desecration or anti-Semitic graffiti; and Harassment, including threats, slurs and activity by anti-Semitic hate groups:
• Assaults: A total of 37 anti-Semitic assaults were reported in 2008. The assaults included attacks with baseball bats and other weapons, punching and rock-throwing. In some cases, victims were hospitalized.
• Vandalism: There were 702 cases of anti-Semitic vandalism reported in 2008, up from 612 cases in 2007.
• Harassment: A total of 613 incidents of anti-Semitic harassment were reported in 2008. (In 2007, the categories of assaults and harassment were combined for reporting purposes, for a total of 745 incidents. In 2008, the combined total of assaults and harassment was 650).
“The bad news is Jews continue to be the number one religion group targeted for hate,” said Glen S. Lewy, ADL National Chair. “The good news is there’s a greater awareness within local Jewish communities that the potential for anti-Semitic activity should always be a concern. Communities have responded with heightened security and by partnering with law enforcement in an attempt to mitigate the threat.”
Continuing a longtime trend, the states with the highest totals were those with large Jewish populations. The top four states accounted for 59 percent of the anti-Semitic incidents recorded by ADL.
The states with the highest totals were New Jersey (238, down from 247); California (226, up from 186); New York (207, down from 351); Florida (122, down from 127); Pennsylvania (97, down from 99); Massachusetts (52, down from 95); and Connecticut (38, down from 49).