Editorial: ADL Targets A Rising Tide of Hate

Jewish Light Editorial

With memories still fresh of a cemetery desecration here  and vicious taunts from marchers in Charlottesville, the latest statistics from the Anti-Defamation League on anti-Semitic incidents should come as no surprise. 

But that doesn’t make them any less a cause for concern.

The new data released by the ADL last week show that the number of anti-Semitic incidents nationally remains significantly higher this year compared with 2016 (read the ADL report online at bit.ly/ADL-2017). That increase is mirrored by numbers in the St. Louis area.

Karen Aroesty, regional director of the Missouri/Southern Illinois/Eastern Kansas ADL, told the Jewish Light that for the first nine months this year, 14 incidents were reported, compared with just eight in all of 2016.

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Behind the numbers, she said, the incidents profoundly affected members of the local Jewish population. The Jewish Community Center and local day schools were victimized by bomb threats called in over a period of weeks, which prompted some evacuations.  

“Just counting incidents doesn’t do justice to whether they are similar to much of the vandalism we have been seeing, or something more insidious,” Aroesty said. “And 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.”

The ADL has counted anti-Semitic incidents in the United States since 1979 and reported its numbers in its annual audit. The ADL research includes criminal and non-criminal acts of harassment and intimidation, including distribution of hate propaganda, threats and slurs.

This year, in response to concerns about rising anti-Semitism, the ADL has stepped up the frequency of its reporting, issuing semiannual reports to share data more frequently.

The latest incidents include a disturbingly high number of anti-Semitic bullying and vandalism in K-12 schools and on college campuses around the United States.

According to the ADL figures, compared with 2016, each of the first three quarters of 2017 had a higher number of incidents year over year.  These incidents peaked during the first quarter of 2017, and the pace slowed somewhat in the second and third quarters.  

Of all 1,299 anti-Semitic incidents in 2017, a majority of them, 667, occurred in the first quarter of the year.  An additional 632 anti-Semitic incidents were reported in the second and third quarters of the year, surpassing the 448 incidents reported during the same period last year.

There was also a distinct increase after the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Va., in August.

Jonathan Greenblatt, chief executive of the ADL, expressed serious concern about the disturbing trend.

“We are astonished and horrified by the rise in anti-Semitic harassment, incidents and violence targeting our communities,” he said. “While the tragedy in Charlottesville highlighted this trend, it was not an aberration.  Every singe day, white supremacists target members of the Jewish community – holding rallies in public, recruiting on college campuses, attacking journalists on social media and even targeting young children.  

“For over a century, ADL has worked tirelessly to protect any community targeted by hatred, and we’re not about to stand down now.  No matter how emboldened these elements of society may feel, they will never threaten our mission.”

The latest figures confirm what many members of the Jewish community have felt instinctively, that locally, nationally and globally, we are under siege, and the dangers to our security increase with each passing month.

Everyone can help fight this scourge by working with and supporting agencies such as the ADL, the American Jewish Committee, the Midwest Jewish Congress, the Jewish Community Relations Council and like-minded groups that are dedicated to rooting out anti-Semitism and all forms of hatred from our community and nation.

Such support can help ensure that the statistics in 2018 will not be as grim as the picture of anti-Semitism painted this year.