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Anti-Semitic incidents in U.S. and California down in 2007, ADL reports

by Brad A. Greenberg

March 7, 2008 | 5:00 pm

A car was spray-painted in Granada Hills

A car was spray-painted in Granada Hills

Continuing its downward trend, the number of anti-Semitic incidents statewide and nationwide dropped last year, according to the Anti-Defamation League's (ADL) annual audit.

Nationally, the number of reported incidents fell nearly 13 percent from the previous year to 1,358 and dropped 25 percent from the 1,821 incidents reported in 2004. The decline was similar in California, falling from 204 acts of harassment and vandalism in 2006 to 186 last year.

Still, the ADL reported anti-Semitic attacks "remain at a disturbing level" and noted a number of headline-grabbing incidents -- from a football field-size swastika carved into a New Jersey cornfield to the pellet-gun shooting of two yeshiva students in Los Angeles.

"I'm not in a state of alarm," said Amanda Susskind, ADL regional director. "We are always vigilant. We always want people to be vigilant. I don't take a slight decrease as a great sign."

That's particularly because in the first two months of 2008, a spate of anti-Semitic incidents has targeted Jews in the San Fernando Valley.

In January, vandals spraypainted swastikas and epithets like "F�"- Jews" and "Burn Jews" on the walls outside of four upscale homes in Encino and Tarzana. The L.A. City Council reacted by offering a $50,000 reward for information leading to an arrest.

Then last month, Molotov cocktails were thrown at The New JCC at Milken in West Hills and at the nearby home of a Jewish family, where a mezuzah was also torn from its doorpost. The Feb. 18 incidents, which are being investigated as hate crimes, caused little property damage and injured no one. But the community response has been swift.

L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa condemned the attacks the next morning. Within a week, the City Council put up another $50,000 reward. Then the FBI agreed to contribute an additional $20,000 and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) offered another $25,000.

"The Jewish community is an integral part of the Valley and the city of Los Angeles, and all crimes and acts of vandalism against any religious group or house of worship are taken very seriously and given the highest priority," said Councilman Dennis Zine, whose district includes the West Valley, at a City Hall press conference Feb. 27. "We must apprehend the urban terrorists responsible for these horrific attacks."

Zine, who requested the reward from the City Council, was joined by Councilman Jack Weiss and representatives from Los Angeles police and fire, FBI and ATF as well as the ADL and The Jewish Federation/Valley Alliance, which owns the West Hills JCC facility.

"In this most-diverse major city in the history of the world, we need to stand together to fight this virus of hate," Susskind said at the time. "Not just this one symptom but in all its ugly forms."

The Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents, released Feb. 27, drew particular attention to a slight uptick in the number anti-Semitic acts reported nationwide at middle and high schools, up four incidents from 193 in 2006. They included a Burbank High School teacher finding "F�"- Jews" written on a classroom blackboard and overhead projector; a few L.A. teenagers calling their teacher a "Christ killer" and a Conejo Valley teen telling his Jewish classmate, "I saw your grandfather burning on 'Schindler's List.'"

Other local anti-Semitic incidents ranged from "Die Jew" spraypainted on a car in Granada Hills to a message left on a Tarzana answering machine: "Hitler didn't kill enough of you."

Such attacks have become standard fare for the ADL's annual audit. But the organization highlighted two unusual incidents from Los Angeles in 2007: the August pellet-gun shooting, accompanied by anti-Semitic remarks, which occurred in the Melrose area and caused no injuries, and the May vandalism of Weiss' Sherman Oaks office.

"Our Policy: We have no time to listen to Jewish American children!!! If you don't believe us, just try talking to us," began a letter glued to the office door. "We'll have a homoerotic cop feeling up your Jewish ass in no time!!! Hail Weiss!! Mein Fuhrer"

Adonis A. Irwin, who was arrested nearby the next day, pleaded no contest and was sentenced in July to nine months in jail and three years probation. He has been released.

"The response in Los Angeles is a show of force and a show of strength," Weiss said on Monday, emphasizing the role of both Los Angeles police and the ADL. "Taking the long historical view, that is a new development in the several-thousand-year history of our people. Thank God that at least in Israel and the United States, these sorts of incidents will always be met with the full force of the law."

"Are we living in fear?" Weiss had asked at the press conference about the JCC firebombing. "No. We are living with pride in the fact that we are joined at the hip in the Jewish community in Los Angeles with law enforcement. We are not afraid; we won't be intimidated.

"In fact," he continued, "our partners and friends in law enforcement are going to track down the people who committed these hate crimes. And let me tell you something: Those are probably the people who should be living in fear now. Because as of today, there is $95,000 on the street for your friends, your family members and your associates to give you up."

Law enforcement officials asked anyone with information to call LAFD arson investigators at (213) 485-6095 or the LAPD at (213) 485-2000.

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