In a year that included the deadliest attack on Jews in American history, the Anti-Defamation League reported a 5 percent decline in anti-Semitic incidents nationally in 2018, compared with the year before.
The 1,879 incidents in 2018 (down from 1,986 in 2017) were still the third-highest in the 40 years that the ADL has issued such reports.
The 1,066 incidents of harassment represented a 5 percent increase from 2017. Assaults, 39 incidents affecting 59 victims, rose 105 percent. The 774 reported acts of vandalism were down 19 percent from 2017.
The Oct. 27, 2018, massacre at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, in which 11 worshippers were killed and two were wounded, counted as a single incident.
The ADL reported 249 anti-Semitic incidents in 2018 attributed to known extremist groups or to individuals inspired by extremist ideology, a 13 percent increase from 2017 and the highest number since 2004.
The report cited 344 anti-Semitic incidents at non-Jewish K-12 schools in 2018, down from 457 in 2017, and 201 incidents at colleges and universities, down from 204 the previous year.
In Georgia, the number of reported incidents of anti-Jewish harassment, vandalism and assault in 2018 was roughly half that of the previous year.
“Yes, the numbers are down nationally and locally, but the numbers are still extremely significant,” said Allison Padilla-Goodman, director of the ADL’s regional office in Atlanta.
Describing 2017 as a “record-breaking year,” Padilla-Goodman noted that “2018 still registered the third-largest number of anti-Semitic incidents since 1979. Just because there was a small drop does not mean that anti-Semitism is waning.
“In 2018, we saw violence and aggressivity against Jews in ways that we haven’t seen,” Padilla-Goodman said, referencing not only the killings at Tree of Life but the assaults on Jews walking on streets in the New York borough of Brooklyn.
In Georgia, 25 incidents of harassment were reported in 2018, down from 40 in 2017; reported incidents of vandalism declined to 4 from 17 the year before; and in both years, a single incident of assault was reported.
For those who might think the national and state figures too low, Padilla-Goodman cautioned that “We have a very, very, very high bar for what qualifies as an anti-Semitic incident, and these anti-Semitic incidents we are reporting are the things that are reported to us.”
The current year is off to an inauspicious start, highlighted by the terror attack at Chabad of Poway near San Diego, in which one woman was killed and three people were wounded.
As reported in the AJT, the current year has had its share of local incidents.
“When we think about what’s happened so far in 2019, I think the impact is hitting the Jewish community very strongly,” Padilla-Goodman said, mentioning the “eviction notice” controversy at Emory University, the swastikas spray-painted on the exterior of Centennial High School, and the flap at Autrey Mill Middle School over a map displayed on a multi-cultural night that replaced Israel with Palestine.
“Those are incidents that had huge repercussions in the Jewish community,” Padilla-Goodman said. “We have to remember the impact here, not just the dates. Each of these incidents represent people and communities.”
In the same week that the ADL released its U.S. report, a report on anti-Semitic incidents internationally was released by the Kantor Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry based at Tel Aviv University, and the European Jewish Congress.
According to that report, major violent cases of attacks on Jews increased 13 percent in 2018, rising to 387 from 342 in 2017. “This sense of turning gradually [into] an outsider is coupled with an ominous feeling of insecurity that reached its peak in October, after the murder of 11 elderly Jews in the Pittsburgh Tree of Life-Or L’Simcha synagogue,” the report said.