- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 12, 2020

The Anti-Defamation League reported Tuesday a record-setting surge in anti-Semitic incidents in 2019, led by dramatic increases in assaults and harassment against Jews in New York and New Jersey.

In its annual audit, the ADL notched 2,107 anti-Semitic incidents nationwide, a 12% increase from 2018 and the highest number since the civil-rights organization began tracking anti-Semitism in 1979.

The most dramatic increases were found in New York, where overall incidents rose by 26% and assaults soared by a staggering 106%, and New Jersey, which saw incidents jump by 73% and assaults climb from two to five for an increase of 150%.

“The antisemitic violence we observed in 2019, not only here in New York but also around the country, is absolutely devastating,” Alexander Rosemberg, ADL’s deputy director of the New York/New Jersey region, said in a statement. “In just one week in December, we observed near daily antisemitic attacks against the Orthodox community in Brooklyn. Slurs, harassment and physical attacks became the new norm.”

The report coincides with an uptick in high-profile targeting of the large orthodox Jewish population in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Last month, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio came under fire for singling out the “Jewish community” after police broke up a crowded funeral gathering for a prominent Hasidic rabbi who died of COVID-19, even though thousands gathered earlier that day for a Blue Angels flyover with no reaction from law enforcement.

On Monday, New York police charged a Brooklyn couple with hate crimes after they allegedly shouted slurs at a group of Hasidic Jews, accusing them of failing to social-distance, and at one point inexplicably tried to rip the face masks off three of the men.

“You’re the reason why we’re getting sick,” said one of the suspects, according to police, as reported by the New York Post.

Brooklyn was a hotspot for assaults: “More than half of the assaults nationwide took place in the five boroughs of New York City, including 25 in Brooklyn, five in Manhattan, one in the Bronx and one in Queens,” said the report.

“Five assaults took place in the greater Los Angeles metropolitan area, and three took place in the greater Miami area,” the audit said. “The remaining assaults were spread across the country, with no other city recording more than one.”

New York registered a 51% increase in the state’s average number of incidents over the last decade, while New Jersey saw dramatic increases in vandalism (up 72%), harassment (up 71%), according to the audit.

“The data is clear: antisemitism is on the rise, and it is growing more dangerous,” Shira J. Goodman, regional director of ADL’s Philadelphia office, said in a statement. “Jews in New Jersey are dealing with levels of bigotry unmatched in the past forty years.”

There was no mass shooting last year as deadly as the 2018 Tree of Life synagogue attack in Pittsburgh, which left 11 dead, but five civilians were killed in major assaults targeting Jews.

In New York, the ADL documented 430 incidents last year, culminating in a deadly Dec. 28 machete attack during a Hanukkah celebration at a home in Monsey. Rabbi Chaim Rottenberg died three months later of his injuries from the stabbing.

The suspect, 37-year-old Grafton Thomas, who was accused of stabbing five people, was charged with a federal hate crime but ruled mentally unfit to stand trial last month by a Rockland County judge.

Two weeks earlier, two shooters with anti-Semitic views who had expressed interest in the Black Hebrew Israelites attacked a kosher grocery store in Jersey City, New Jersey, killing three customers before being shot and killed by police.

In San Diego County, 19-year-old John Timothy Earnest opened fire on the Chabad of Poway, killing Lori Gilbert-Kaye and injuring three others. He was later charged with murder and federal hate crimes after police found he had posted a racist and anti-Semitic rant on 8chan.

Right vs. left

Figuring out who’s driving the rise in anti-Semitism has become an increasingly charged political question. While progressives blame white supremacists, conservatives point to the rise in anti-Israel sentiment within the Democratic Party, accusing lawmakers such as Rep. Ilhan Omar of veering into anti-Semitism. She has denied such allegations.

Under CEO Jonathan Greenblatt, a former Obama administration official who took over the ADL in 2015, the focus has been on white supremacy.

The ADL audit said that 270 incidents were tied to “known extremist groups or individuals inspired by extremist ideology,” or 13% of the total, citing anti-Semitic banners, fliers and written messages from the Daily Stormer Book Club, the New Jersey European Heritage Association, the Loyal White Knights, and Atomwaffen Division.

The audit also listed incidents vandalism or disruptive activity carried out by anti-Semitic extremists under monikers such as The Base, Shield Wall Network and Witness for Peace.

On college campuses, anti-Semitic activity was associated with anti-Israel protests such as Israeli Apartheid Week. Examples included messages at universities such as “Zionism=racism” and equating pro-Israel beliefs with white supremacy.

Mr. Greenblatt called it “a year of unprecedented antisemitic activity,” and vowed to fight back by engaging lawmakers, schools and communities to “end the cycle of hatred.”

“I think the charged environment contributes to it,” Mr. Greenblatt told ABC7 in New York. “I think concern about big economic and social challenges that seem to be going unanswered is part of it, and social media amplifies these issues to a great degree as well.”

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