Anti-Semitic incidents in the United States hit an all-time high in 2019, but dipped slightly in California, according to a report released Tuesday, May 12, by the Anti-Defamation League.
U.S. incidents of antisemitism climbed to 2,107 last year, the most since the ADL began tracking these statistics in 1979. Although incidents in California dipped 3% from 2018 to 2019, the state experienced a 56% increase in such incidents during the three-year period ending last year.
Also in 2019, California saw a 53% increase in anti-Semitic vandalism compared to 2018. The Orange County/Long Beach region recorded a 22% increase in anti-Semitic incidents in 2019 compared to 2018, the ADL’s local chapter reported.
The record number of incidents came in a year marked by three major attacks on the Jewish community in 2019. A white supremacist opened fire at the Chabad of Poway in San Diego County on April 27, killing one. Two men, at least one of whom was associated with an anti-Semitic Black Hebrew Israelite sect, attacked a Jewish grocery store in Jersey City, New Jersey, on Dec. 10, killing three. And, on Dec. 28, a knife-wielding man stormed a Hanukkah party at the home of a rabbi in Monsey, New York, resulting in four injuries and one fatality.
The increase anti-Semitic incidents over the past three years indicates “a normalization of open hostility toward the Jewish community,” said Amanda Susskind, the Los Angeles regional director of the ADL.
“The historic levels of anti-Semitic incidents over the last three years in California is alarming, as is the massive uptick in anti-Semitic vandalism,” she said. “Each of these incidents has reverberations, not only for the victims, but for the entire Jewish community.”
Southern California incidents
The ADL report provided several examples of anti-Semitic incidents all over Southern California. In September, the welcome sign of a Northridge synagogue was vandalized with the message “6 million was not enough,” referring to the number of Jewish people killed in the Nazi Holocaust. A swastika was painted on a Jewish-owned business in Palm Springs in October. Similar graffiti was found on vehicles, a home and a stop sign in Wrightwood in December.
In South Orange County, a Fortnite video game player targeted a young teen user with an image of a swastika and the word “Jew.” In Costa Mesa, a group of teens from local high schools shared images on social media of them playing a game in which they arranged red cups in the form of a swastika and did the Nazi salute. Several incidents also were reported on high school and college campuses.
“It is especially disturbing how anti-Semitic and holocaust jokes, Nazi salutes and swastikas have become all too frequent in our schools,” said Rabbi Peter Levi, regional director of ADL’s Orange County/Long Beach chapter.
After two such incidents involving high school students went viral on social media nationwide, Levi said, he is pleased to see some school districts “proactively addressing bigotry and the normalization of hate and hate symbols.”
“Antisemitism is just once type of hate plaguing our community as we experience extremists in addition to garden-variety haters seizing the COVID-19 pandemic as an opportunity to spread more hate at other marginalized groups,” he said.
Susskind says ADL researchers are seeing “alarming things happening because of the COVID-19 crisis.”
“We’ve seen an uptick in extremist ideological conspiracy theories about Jews being behind the (coronavirus) crisis or profiting from it,” she said. “We’re also seeing Zoom-bombing where extremists are getting into conferences and spreading (anti-Semitic) rhetoric.”
Susskind said the coronavirus pandemic also is “unleashing hate against marginalized communities,” particularly immigrants and Asian-Americans.
While the number of anti-Semitic incidents reported may not seem large or significant to some, it is important to remember that these types of incidents are “extremely under-reported,” she said.
“These types of statistics are just a snapshot,” Susskind said. “When you look at it year over year, you get a lot of information. Antisemitism is like the canary in the coalmine when it comes to hate. It’s an indication of deeper societal rifts that can affect many other vulnerable communities.”
Source: Orange County Register