Anti-Semitic incidents down in U.S., but high in state

Anti-Semitic incidents down in U.S., but high in state

Rachel Silverman and Jacob Berman

The number of anti-Semitic incidents in the United States and in New Jersey decreased slightly in ‘005, according to a new report, but the Garden State had the second highest number of reported anti-Semitic incidents last year in the country, after only New York State.

The ADL’s annual audit, released Wednesday, paints an improving, but still bleak portrait of hate incidents directed at Jews. In New Jersey, the number of incidents fell 10 percent from the number recorded in ‘004, reporting a total of ’66 incidents, down from ’97 in ‘004, according to the ADL’s New Jersey region.

ADL Chart

"While any decline is encouraging, we remain concerned because too many people continue to act out their anti-Jewish hatred," Abraham Foxman, the ADL’s national director, said. "The numbers remain sobering because we know from painful experience that it only takes one incident of anti-Semitism to affect an entire community.

"For them, it was not just a number, it was a trauma," he added.

The audit, which looked at anti-Semitic activity across the United States in ‘005, recorded 1,757 such incidents last year. These numbers are down slightly from ‘004’s 1,8’1 incidents, which constituted the highest level of anti- Semitic activity in nine years.

Published annually since 1988, the audit breaks down anti-Semitic incidents into two categories. The first is harassment, which ADL defines as "threats and assaults directed at individuals and institutions." The other category is vandalism, which includes cemetery desecration or anti-Semitic graffiti.

In New Jersey, 1888 of the reported incidents were acts of vandalism, while 78 were acts of harassment. Some of the events highlighted in a press release by the ADL’s New Jersey office included the burning of a 6-foot-tall swastika on a football field in Parsippany and the vandalism of two Jewish cemeteries in Blackhorse Pike. Also, a Jewish student was assaulted in the parking lot of a religious school in Ocean County in August. Six or seven attackers punched the student in the face and told him to "Go back to Israel," according to the release.

Bergen Country experienced the third-highest number of incidents in the state, with ‘9, after Middlesex County at 34 and Ocean County with 3’.

"In Bergen County the numbers are down, and that is encouraging, and it seems to reflect the general trend in New Jersey and across the country, but we are still concerned with the sheer numbers," said Eztion Neuer, the ADL’s New Jersey region director. "There were quite a number of incidents in Bergen County that highlight that we still have a ton of work ahead of us. And the fact that people still feel free to harass and vandalize and without getting caught is troubling."

In Bergen County, aside from the typical smattering of swastikas on cars, in parks and on bridges, one Jewish person received a phone call from someone claiming that they wanted to cremate all Jews, said Neuer. Neo-Nazi literature was distributed in Paramus and Franklin Lakes. A student in Glen Rock painted a swastika on a teacher’s home in Glen Rock.

The data are mined both from official crime statistics and from information provided to ADL’s 30 regional offices by victims, law enforcement officers, and community leaders. This methodology includes criminal acts, as well as non-criminal incidents.

The report’s findings show that:

• Acts of vandalism decreased by 4 percent in ‘005 — from 644 incidents in ‘004 to 617 in ‘005.

• Acts of harassment decreased by 3 percent in ‘005, with 1,140 incidents reported.

• Harassment acts constitute 65 percent of the total incidents reported. Vandalism incidents make up the remaining 35 percent.

• Ninety-eight anti-Semitic incidents were reported on college campuses in ‘005. This constitutes an almost one-third increase from the 74 incidents reported in ‘004.

• States with the highest total incidents included New York (381), New Jersey (’66), California (’47), Florida (199), Massachusetts (93), and Connecticut (57).

• The Internet continues to play a "substantial role" in the propagation of anti-Semitism. Though Internet messages on bulletin boards and in chat rooms were not counted in the audit, specific e-mail threats aimed at Jewish synagogues and institutions were included.

In addition to the audit, the ADL also compiles statistics on anti-Semitic attitudes in the country. In ‘005, the ADL’s "Survey of American Attitudes Towards Jews in America" found that 14 percent of Americans — nearly 35 million adults — maintain views about Jews that are "unquestionably anti-Semitic."

Foxman said American attitudes, for the most part, are on the whole better than those in European nations.

"In Europe, the numbers are higher and more serious," he said. "But while America’s different and better, it’s not immune."

Foxman said the annual audit is useful in determining where and how to allocate resources combating anti-Semitism.

"As much progress as we think we’ve made with legislation, litigation, and education, anti-Semitism still continues to be the No. ‘ hate crime in the United States," Foxman said. "You can’t eliminate it, but you can try to keep a lid on it.”

Anti-Semitic incidents by county in New Jersey

  • Atlantic 9 up from 6 in ‘004
  • Bergen ‘9 down from 37
  • Burlington 6 up from 0
  • Camden ‘1 down from ‘5
  • Cape May 1 up from 0
  • Cumberland ‘ down from 5
  • Essex 1′ down from 17
  • Gloucester 4 down from 11
  • Hudson 8 down from 13
  • Hunterdon 3 up from 0
  • Mercer 17 up from 13
  • Middlesex 34 up from ‘1
  • Monmouth 51 up from 50
  • Morris 10 down from ‘5
  • Ocean 3′ down from 36
  • Passaic 5 down from 11
  • Somerset 10 down from 16
  • Sussex 0 down from 3
  • Union 10 up from 6
  • Warren ‘ no change
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