The Orange County Register, Nov 2, 2017
The number of anti-Semitic incidents in the United States jumped 67 percent during the first nine months of the year, sparked by a sharp increase after national media showed white nationalists chanting “Jews will not replace us” during a mid-summer rally in Charlottesville, Va., according to a report released Thursday by the Anti Defamation League (ADL).
The trend was mirrored in Southern California, particularly in Los Angeles and Orange counties, according to Peter Levi, the ADL’s regional director for Orange County and Long Beach.
The ADL is an international nonprofit organization that combats anti-Semitism and counters hate groups of all stripes. The group has been tracking anti-Semitic crimes and issuing public reports on the topic since 1979.
In all, the ADL documented 703 incidents of harassment, including 162 bomb threats against Jewish institutions. The group also tracked 584 incidents of vandalism (including 52 against Jewish institutions) and 12 physical assaults. New York saw the most incidents, with 297, and California was second, with 197 incidents.
The report describes the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, on Aug. 12, as a catalyst for hate activity, noting that anti-Semitic incidents spiked on and immediately after that day. Of the 306 anti-Semitic incidents reported in the third quarter of 2017, 221 took place on or after Charlottesville.
President Trump has been criticized for failing to condemn white supremacists and saying, after the rally, that there were “fine people on all sides” in Charlottesville. At the rally, a woman who was speaking out against racism was killed when a car plowed into a group of protesters. James Alex Fields, a self-proclaimed white supremacist, was charged with second-degree murder and other crimes in the incident.
Levi said he was particularly disturbed by a jump in bullying incidents in public grade schools and a nearly nine-fold rise in the number of documented reports of white supremacists recruiting on college campuses.
“After Charlottesville, it seems like extremist groups are seeing an opportunity to get their ideology out,” he said.
Nationwide, there were 33 white supremacist rallies and marches in the first nine months of the year, a number Levi described as “unprecedented.”
It’s hard to say why this is happening,” he said. “But… they feel energized and empowered like never before.”
The ADL’s report documents both criminal and non-criminal acts of harassment and intimidation. Incidents included everything from physical violence to distribution of hateful propaganda, threats and slurs.
One of the incidents noted by the ADL took place in March, during a pro-Trump “Make America Great Again” rally in Huntington Beach, when a marcher carried a sign reading “Da Goyim know.” The phrase referenced an anti-semitic meme favored by by some on the alt-right a a way to mock Jews.
The report also took note of a a photograph of a man with a swastika tattoo at an anti-illegal immigration rally in Laguna Beach in August.
The report accurately reflects the surge in anti-Semitic activity seen this year in Los Angeles County, said Robin Toma, executive director of the county’s Commission on Human Relations.
“This should be a cause for great concern,” Toma said. “It confirms our fears that the rise of white supremacist activity is taking its toll on the Jewish community.”
Rabbi Susan Singer said her congregants at Temple Beth El in Riverside this year are becoming “more aware” of anti-Semitic incidents.
“People are more nervous now,” Singer said. “There is this general unease.” She noted that her synagogue typically hires extra security when it hosts special events or large gatherings.
Still, Singer said she doesn’t want to respond in a way that will give extremist groups any power, or encourage them to believe they are successful in their goal of sowing intimidation.
“We just don’t want to give in to that fear,” she said.
“We’re are not going to sit here and cower.”
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