Anti-Semitic incidents more than doubled in the Southeast in 2016 compared with 2015, the Anti-Defamation League said Monday, April 24.
The ADL’s annual Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents counted 56 incidents in Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina and Tennessee in 2016, a 115 percent increase from the 26 incidents reported in 2015.
Thanks in part to the fake bomb threats made against the Marcus Jewish Community Center and JCCs in Birmingham, Nashville and other cities and against several Jewish preschools and day schools in the four-state Southeast Region, the trend has continued in 2017.
“We have already seen a doubling of the number of incidents in just the first quarter of 2017 in our region, jumping from 16 incidents to 32,” said Shelley Rose, the interim regional director at ADL’s Buckhead office, which had to evacuate one morning after it received one of the threats. “It is particularly disturbing to see the number of incidents directed toward Jewish youth. I have received several reports of Holocaust jokes being shared and offensive comments directed at Jewish youth.”
Michael Kadar, 18, an Israeli who also holds U.S. citizenship, has been arrested and charged with making the phone calls threatening Jewish institutions among similar hoaxes against secular places and organizations.
The trend in the Southeast, where the number of incidents tends to be lower because the percentage of the population that is Jewish is lower than in areas such as Florida and the Northeast, is similar to what ADL is seeing nationally. Harassment of American Jews has soared, particularly since November, and anti-Semitic bullying and vandalism at secular schools have doubled.
ADL reported 1,266 U.S. incidents of assault, vandalism and harassment against Jews and Jewish institutions in 2016, a 34 percent increase from 942 incidents in 2015.
Nearly 30 percent of the 2016 incidents (369) occurred in November and December. That surge continued in the first three months of 2017, when preliminary reports found 541 incidents nationwide, an annual pace of more than 2,160 incidents. That’s an 86 percent increase from the 291 incidents of the first quarter of 2016.
Without the 161 bomb threats, the first quarter had 380 incidents, still a 31 percent increase.
“There’s been a significant, sustained increase in anti-Semitic activity since the start of 2016, and what’s most concerning is the fact that the numbers have accelerated over the past five months,” ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said. “Clearly, we have work to do and need to bring more urgency to the fight. … We also need more leaders to speak out against this cancer of hate and more action at all levels to counter anti-Semitism.”
The bomb threats and vandalism at Jewish cemeteries in the first two months of the year inspired the creation of the Atlanta Initiative Against Anti-Semitism, which launched with an invitation-only meeting involving more than 150 groups March 30 and plans its first public meeting at 4:30 p.m. Sunday, May 21, at a location to be announced. Email VolunteersAIAAS@gmail.com to get involved with the group.
The good news in the ADL audit is a national decrease in physical assaults, with six in the first quarter of 2017 compared with 10 in the first three months of 2016. All of 2016 saw 36 physical assaults, down 36 percent from 56 in 2015.
Incidents on college campuses were mostly flat, but anti-Semitic incidents at non-Jewish elementary, middle and high schools increased 106 percent, from 114 in 2015 to 235 in 2016. That increase accelerated with 95 incidents in the first three months of 2017.
“Schools are a microcosm of the country,” Greenblatt said. “Children absorb messages from their parents and the media and bring them into their schools and playgrounds. We are very concerned the next generation is internalizing messages of intolerance and bigotry.”
Oren Segal, the director of the ADL Center on Extremism, said the numbers reflect the resurgence of white supremacist activity in the United States and the use of technology to spread hatred.