Anti-Semitic incidents surged nearly 60% in 2017

In its annual audit, the Anti-Defamation League found 1,986 cases of harassment, vandalism or physical assaults against Jews and Jewish institutions last year. That's up from the 1,267 incidents reported in 2016.

Anti-Semitic incidents in the US surged nearly 60% in 2017, driven in part by an increase in such cases in schools and college campuses, a new report says.

It’s the largest single-year increase on record — and every state reported at least one incident for the first time since at least 2010.

In its annual audit, the Anti-Defamation League found 1,986 cases of harassment, vandalism or physical assaults against Jews and Jewish institutions last year.

That’s up from the 1,267 incidents reported in 2016.

The reason

It’s difficult to explain why anti-Semitic incidents increased because the perpetrators in many cases are still unknown, Aryeh Tuchman, associate director for the ADL’s Center on Extremism, said. But he does suspect the current mood in the US has made it easier for those incidents to occur.

“We’re definitely in a period in our country where there’s a general decrease in civility,” Tuchman said. “People in the past who have tamped down their anti-Semitic proclivities may feel more liberated to express them than before.”

The incidents

There were 1,986 incidents in all of 2017, including:

  • 1,015 cases of harassment
  • 952 cases of vandalism
  • 19 cases of assault

There were 1,267 incidents in all of 2016, including:

  • 721 cases of harassment and threats
  • 510 cases of vandalism
  • 36 cases of physical assault

The 1,015 cases of harassment in 2017 include a series of 163 bomb threats made against Jewish community centers and other institutions early in the year. A Jewish teenager was later arrested in connection with the threats. Excluding those threats, the number of harassment cases was 852, still an increase from the 721 reported in 2016.

The instances

The report includes an extensive list of the hateful acts that Jews all over the country experienced throughout the year.

Here are just some of those incidents:

The states

An anti-Semitic incident happened in every US state last year, for the first time since at least 2010. These are the states where acts of harassment, vandalism and assault against Jews happened the most:

New York (380) California (268) New Jersey (208) Massachusetts (177) Florida (98) Pennsylvania (96)

These states also happen to have large Jewish populations.

The schools

Anti-Semitic acts happened in all kinds of places, such as cemeteries, businesses and private homes. Part of the reason for the spike in these incidents, however, can be attributed to an increase in anti-Semitic incidents in schools. In K-12 schools, the number of those reported incidents rose by a whopping 94% compared to 2016.

Anti-Semitic incidents on college campuses nearly doubled too.

“Kids don’t censor themselves,” Tuchman said. “The fact that incidents have increased so much particularly in the youngest segment of society tells me that they are hearing things and repeating them. This tells me there is anti-Semitism in the air.”

The solution

ADL cites a number of the Jewish civil rights organization’s programs as part of an ongoing effort to combat anti-Semitism, including anti-bias training for law enforcement officials and anti-bullying programs in schools.

Tuchman also said that it’s crucial for leaders and public officials condemn anti-Semitism and bigotry whenever it occurs.

“We have to make sure that the sphere of public discourse isn’t infected with anti-Semitic discourse.”