Anti-Semitic incidents surged by 32 percent in the Southeast in 2017, according to a report released Tuesday, Feb. 27, by the Anti-Defamation League.

ADL’s four-state Southeast Region — Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee and South Carolina — reported 74 incidents in 2017, compared with 56 in 2016, according to ADL’s annual Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents. Those incidents included bomb threats against Jewish community centers in each state, including multiple threats against the Marcus JCC.

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An Israeli-American teenager was arrested last year and charged with the wave of threats against JCCs, Jewish schools and other Jewish institutions in the first three months of 2017.

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Nationally, ADL reported almost 60 percent more anti-Semitic incidents in 2017 than in 2016, the largest single-year increase since the tracking of incident data began in 1979. Anti-Semitic incidents at schools and colleges nearly doubled for the second year in a row.

The Southeast Region saw 53 incidents of harassment, including 13 bomb threats, up 15 percent from 2016; 20 incidents of vandalism, double the total in 2016; and one physical assault after none in 2016.

If none of the bomb threats had occurred — and it’s not clear how many of the 13 reported were part of the wave of threats attributed to the teenager in Israel — the increase in reported incidents in the Southeast would have been 9 percent instead of 32 percent.

Nearly one-third of anti-Semitic incidents occurred at Jewish institutions or Jewish schools, and more than one-third took place at colleges or non-Jewish schools: 21 at non-Jewish schools, up from 17; five on college campuses, up from three; and 24 at Jewish institutions and schools, up from 13.

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“It is deeply concerning to observe the rise of anti-Semitism in places where our children should be learning how to positively impact society,” said Phil Rubin, who chairs the ADL Southeast regional board. “It is clear that our work has never been needed as much as it is now. We must raise our profile in the community, build partnerships, and both educate and communicate to achieve our mission and keep our children safe from anti-Semitism.”

ADL’s anti-bias training is in high demand, Southeast Regional Director Allison Padilla-Goodman said. “We are seeing a renewed interest in and investment by our schools to dive deeply into guided conversations about hatred and inclusivity. These conversations are also valuable for the workplace and with community groups, and demand for our resources and support there is growing as well.”

Since 1979, ADL has counted anti-Semitic incidents in the United States for its annual audit. Last year, in response to concerns about rising anti-Semitism, ADL reported the data more frequently.

According to the audit, the reasons for the rising numbers include more people recognizing and reporting incidents to ADL.

“A confluence of events in 2017 led to a surge in attacks on our community — from bomb threats, cemetery desecrations, white supremacists marching in Charlottesville and children harassing children at school,” ADL CEO and National Director Jonathan Greenblatt said. “These incidents came at a time when we saw a rising climate of incivility, the emboldening of hate groups and widening divisions in society.”

The audit includes criminal and noncriminal acts of harassment and intimidation, including the distribution of hate propaganda, threats and slurs. The largest increase in 2017 was in vandalism, indicating that people feel emboldened enough to break the law. Most vandalism cases are never solved.

ADL has a comprehensive approach to address anti-Semitic incidents and behavior nationally, including educating youths to prevent such behaviors and working with law enforcement to apprehend culprits. ADL trains 15,000 law enforcement officials per year and reaches 1.5 million kids in schools with anti-bias and anti-bullying training.

ADL’s policy recommendations in response to the audit:

  • Congress should pass legislation to expand federal protections against bomb threats to religious institutions. The House approved HR 1730 in December. The Senate has not acted.
  • Public officials and law enforcement must use their bully pulpit to speak against anti-Semitic incidents and all other acts of hate. These officials must support efforts to punish the conduct to the fullest extent of the law while providing comfort and assistance to victims and community members.
  • Victims and bystanders should report all anti-Semitic incidents and vandalism to ADL and police.
  • College and university administrators, faculty and staff must receive training to respond to anti-Semitic incidents, hate crimes, hate speech and extremism on campus. Colleges and universities must be institutions for learning that work toward inclusion and equity while ensuring open expression and a marketplace for ideas.