Anti-Semitic incidents up from last year, ADL reports

By Eric Berger, Staff Writer

The number of anti-Semitic incidents in the United States has increased significantly this year, according to a new audit from the Anti-Defamation League, a nonprofit that works to fight anti-Semitism and hate and tracks such occurrences. 

Reflected in this increase is the number of incidents in Missouri, site of a Jewish cemetery vandalism that garnered national attention. 

From January through September, there were almost 1,299 reported anti-Semitic incidents nationwide, compared to 779 over the same period last year. The incidents were mostly split between harassment and vandalism. 

In Missouri, there were 14 incidents during that time, compared with 8 in all of 2016. 

“Political rhetoric has created a platform where hate and bias appear to be a norm and there is no leadership to condemn it,” said Karen Aroesty, director of the ADL of Missouri/Southern Illinois/Eastern Kansas. “When leadership has come out in the past and condemned it in schools, on campuses, in communities, this stuff goes away. When there is no leadership to condemn it and draw people together in a similar way, it doesn’t stop.”


The local chapter will continue to fight anti-Semitism, Aroesty said, by increasing its educational programming, advocacy and work with law enforcement. The organization recently announced a new workshop, Words to Action, on Nov. 19 (see related story on this page) that aims to help people become more comfortable discussing Israel and responding to anti-Israel words or actions that bleed into anti-Semitism.

“I think it shows that we have to keep doing what we do best,” said Aroesty. 

The ADL audit includes the February vandalism at Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery in University City, although police have not been able to determine whether it was vandalism or an act of anti-Semitism. A University City resident also recently discovered a swastika spray painted on her garage door, according to the U. City police department.

“At this time we believe this to be a random act of vandalism and not directed at any one person, as the victim is not of the Jewish faith,” the police department stated in a press release. 

Still, “while in some cases it is hard to define intent, as in the cemetery desecration, there is no denying the impact that such an event had on the Jewish community and across the country,” Aroesty said. 

People also sometimes do not report anti-Semitism for a number of different reasons, Aroesty said, “all of which are legitimate. I can understand why people don’t want to victimized. It’s always been difficult with this audit, and it really is just a snapshot.”

University City police have not made any arrests in the cemetery or garage vandalism.