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Jewish Journal

Anti-Semitism sees decreased incidents, increased violence

by Benji Rosen

April 2, 2014 | 1:29 pm

The owner of this vandalized car is Jewish.

The owner of this vandalized car is Jewish.

Los Angeles experienced about a 40 percent decline in anti-Semitic incidents in 2013, part of a national downturn, according to a report released April 1 by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). 

The ADL’s annual audit found that in its Los Angeles region, only 63 anti-Semitic incidents occurred last year, compared to 104 in 2012. These numbers reflect events in Los Angeles and its neighboring counties San Bernardino, Riverside and Kern. 

The report also found that in California, anti-Semitic incidents decreased 23 percent, from 185 in 2012 to 143 in 2013. These findings echo a national drop-off of 19 percent across the United States, and the continuation of a trending overall decline in anti-Semitic incidents in the country since 2003. Nationally, 927 incidents occurred in 2012, compared to 751 this past year,

ADL Pacific Southwest Regional Director Amanda Susskind, whose branch oversees the Los Angeles region, told the Journal the decline is “significant,” and that her region is pleased with its progress. However, she and ADL National Director Abraham Foxman, who was quoted in a press release, emphasized that these statistics also highlight that anti-Semitism continues to linger throughout the United States. 

“Every time we issue an audit, it’s an opportunity to raise awareness that while we have achieved enormous strides in both acceptance and assimilation of the Jewish community, there still remains remnants of very significant hatred toward Jews that sometimes manifests in incidents and crimes,” Susskind said. 

While the audit is useful in watching for trends, officials cautioned about jumping to too many conclusions based on the local numbers, as the statistical sample size from year to year is relatively small compared to the national results.

The ADL’s audit evaluates criminal and non-criminal acts of anti-Semitism — nationwide, state-by-state and regionally — that its 30 offices record over a one-year period. For the report, the ADL divides cases into three classifications: violence, which includes spitting or throwing objects; vandalism that targets Jews; and harassment, which ranges from anti-Semitic written or verbal attacks, to threats, to cyberbullying 

Although anti-Semitic incidents generally lessened this past year, one “dark spot” the ADL review underlined was a sharp increase in violent anti-Semitic assaults. Thirty-one Jewish individuals (or those perceived to be Jewish) were attacked in 2013, 14 more than the year before. One of these attacks occurred in the Hollywood area in June, when a Jewish man was surrounded by five male suspects, who, before striking him in the throat, yelled, “F---ing Jews” and “Heil Hitler!” 

Susskind attributes the declining acts of anti-Semitism in the L.A. area to the ADL’s combined efforts with the Los Angeles police and county sheriff’s departments to raise people’s awareness, educate teachers and respond to community needs. 

In his statement, Foxman, who is retiring next year after serving 50 years with the ADL, said there remains a dangerous connection between anti-Semitism and bigotry online. 

“The explosion of viral hate is impossible to quantify, but should not be ignored,” Foxman wrote. “The Internet provides racists and bigots with an outlet to reach a potential audience of millions, and we suspect that it has also led many to take their opinions online rather than leafleting entire neighborhoods. So, that may have an impact on the audit’s findings, which measure real world incidents as opposed to viral hate, which is impossible to quantify given its proliferation on the Internet and on social media.”

Susskind and senior associate director of the local region, Alison Mayersohn, said the ADL works to resolve the most egregious
cyberabuses, but that individuals should report abusive behavior directly to the Web sites. The ADL’s Cyber-Safety Action Guide explains how to flag anti-Semitism and bigotry to the providers of Web sites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. 

Susskind said her office also is noticing a “mainstreaming” of Nazi epithets, swastikas and particularly insensitive Holocaust imagery that was not tolerated in recent decades. Examples of such incidents locally this past year included a construction site in the San Fernando Valley that was vandalized with a swastika and graffiti that read, “All we are saying is: Let Jews breathe gas.” To combat this development, a major ADL program offers a Holocaust and anti-bias education module, “A World of Difference Institute,” for teachers and students, college administrators, law enforcement officials and community members. 

The ADL, in its national press release about the audit, also wrote that an explanation for part of the decrease in anti-Semitic events was that 2013 “was a relatively quiet year for anti-Israel activity in the public sphere compared to previous years when military conflicts involving Israel” spurred hundreds of demonstrations. Although the ADL does not classify anti-Israel or anti-Zionism acts as anti-Semitic, if a protest uses props resembling anti-Jewish stereotypes or inappropriate Nazi imagery, the ADL records it as one. 

Among all the states that experienced anti-Semitic incidents last year, New York recorded the most with 203. However, that, too, represented a decrease, down from 248 the previous year. New York and Los Angeles typically have the most anti-Semitic incidents, according to the ADL, because they have the largest Jewish populations in the United States.

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