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Prior to Recent Attack on Israel, Antisemitic Incidents in U.S. at Historic Levels

87% increase in southwest region.
The Jewish United Fund holds a rally in support of Israel Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2023, in Chicago. BlueRoomStream
The Jewish United Fund holds a rally in support of Israel Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2023, in Chicago. BlueRoomStream

By: Bethany Blankley | The Center Square contributor

Prior to the Hamas, and now Hezbollah, attacking Israel, and as pro-Palestinian rallies and protests occur nationwide, antisemitic incidents in the U.S. were already at historic highs.

The greatest increase of antisemitic incidents that occurred last year occurred in the southwest – an 87% increase from 2021. More than half of the incidents occurred in the Houston, Texas, region.

In the southwest, 73 antisemitic incidents were reported; 46 occurred in the greater Houston area, according to a report published by the Anti-Defamation League.

Nationally in 2022, 3,697 antisemitic incidents were reported, an increase of 36% from 2021.

The findings come from the ADL’s annual Audit of Antisemitic Incidents, which estimates that an average of 10 antisemitic incidents occurred every day in the U.S. in 2022. This represents “the highest level of antisemitic activity” since ADL began cataloging such data in 1979. It notes that there’s been “an upward trendline of hate and vitriol directed against the American Jewish community over the last five years.”

Last year’s total was “the third time in the past five years that the year-end total has been the highest number ever recorded,” according to the report.

“We’re deeply disturbed by this dramatic and completely unacceptable surge in antisemitic incidents. While we can’t point to any single factor or ideology driving this increase, the surges in organized white supremacist propaganda activity, brazen attacks on Orthodox Jews, a rapid escalation of bomb threats toward Jewish institutions and significant increases of incidents in schools and on college campuses all contributed to the unusually high number,” Jonathan Greenblatt, ADL CEO and National Director, said.

The report categorizes incidents in three categories: assaults, harassment and vandalism. It includes criminal and non-criminal acts of harassment and intimidation, which includes distribution of hate propaganda, threats and slurs, vandalism and assault reported by victims, law enforcement and community leaders. Last year, antisemitic incidents occurred in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The number of incidents is not the same as, and is generally higher than, the number of victims.

The number of assaults reported, 111, was a 26% increase from 2021. The number of assault victims, 139, including one fatality, was a 6% increase from 2021. Assaults are defined as instances where “Jewish people (or people perceived to be Jewish) were targeted with physical violence accompanied by evidence of antisemitic animus.”

Orthodox Jews were disproportionately targeted, accounting for 53% of assault incidents nationwide.

There were 2,298 incidents of harassment last year, representing a 29% increase from 2021. Harassment is defined as “one or more Jewish people (or people perceived to be Jewish) were harassed with antisemitic slurs, stereotypes or conspiracy theories.”

There were 1,288 incidents of vandalism last year, a 51% increase from 2021. Vandalism is defined as “cases where property was damaged along with evidence of antisemitic intent or had an antisemitic impact on Jews.” Vandalism included perpetrators using swastikas, a symbol made popular by the Nazi regime, which is still generally interpreted as a symbol of antisemitic hatred. Vandalism targeting Jews was up 37% last year from 2021.

The greatest number of antisemitic incidents occurred last year in five states: New York (580), California (518), New Jersey (408), Florida (269) and Texas (211). These five states accounted for 54% of all incidents reported.

Jewish institutions were increasingly targeted last year with one hostage crisis occurring in Texas.

In total, 589 incidents occurred last year in which synagogues, Jewish community centers and schools were targeted, an increase of 12% from 2021. In January 2022, a British Muslim reportedly inspired by ISIS propaganda entered Congregation Beth Israel synagogue in Colleyville, Texas, and held congregants and staff hostage. The armed gunman engaged in an 11-hour standoff with police that ended in the hostages being released without harm and the hostage taker being killed.

A total of 91 bomb threats made against Jewish institutions last year were the highest number recorded since 2017, ADL says.

Antisemitic activity reported at more than 130 U.S. college and university campuses last year increased by 41% from 2021. Jewish students attending non-Jewish K-12 schools were also targeted; 494 incidents were reported, an increase of 49% from 2021.

“It’s deeply troubling that there was such a sharp increase in school- and college-based antisemitic acts,” Greenblatt said. “This is a reminder of the need for more targeted education efforts aimed at rooting out hate and teaching acceptance. Holocaust education is increasingly important, which is why we are advocating for the passage of state laws mandating Holocaust education so schools are equipped to teach that history and ensure its lessons endure.”

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