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ADL audit sees rise in anti-Semitic acts in NJ
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ADL audit sees rise in anti-Semitic acts in NJ

Across the United States, a 21 percent increase

Two swastikas and an X were smeared on a whiteboard outside a Kean University dorm room last October. Photo by Nathaniel Sietz
Two swastikas and an X were smeared on a whiteboard outside a Kean University dorm room last October. Photo by Nathaniel Sietz

A new report by the Anti-Defamation League shows a sharp increase in anti-Semitic incidents in New Jersey in the past year.

According to the group’s annual audit, physical assaults, harassment, and acts of vandalism rose by 27 percent, from 78 in 2013 to 107 in 2014.

Three Jewish New Jerseyans were assaulted in 2014, one more than in 2013. Acts of vandalism rose from 47 to 56. And events of threats and harassment increased from 29 in 2013 to 48 last year.

“The sharp increase of reported incidents in New Jersey is a reminder that anti-Semitism continues to pose a threat to the Jewish community and larger society as well,” said Joshua Cohen, ADL’s NJ regional director, in a press release. “We are deeply concerned that in 2014 Jews and Jewish institutions were victims of anti-Semitic assaults, threats, vandalism, and harassment more than twice a week.”

Nationally, ADL counted a total of 912 anti-Semitic incidents across the United States during the 2014 calendar year, a 21 percent increase from the 751 incidents reported during the same period in 2013.

New Jersey had the third-highest rate  of anti-Semitic incidents in the nation. New York  reported 231 acts of anti-Semitism; California had 184.

The NJ counties with the highest totals were Monmouth  with 19 incidents, Ocean with 13, and Middlesex with 11. Morris County had eight, Union County had six, Essex and Mercer each had five, and Somerset had three.

Although he would not specify the three towns where the violent attacks occurred, Cohen said that in January, a Union County man was pushed to the ground and punched and kicked by three unknown men. In May, a Morris County teenager was called a “f–king Jew” before he was hit by a fellow student. And in August, a Somerset County man  was pushed to the ground and kicked while being called, “a dirty f–king Jew.”

Some of the victims “were identifiable as part of the religious community,” Cohen told NJ Jewish News in a phone interview.

“The assaults should be treated seriously,” Cohen said. “They are reminders that anti-Semitism continues to pose a threat to American Jews and American society as well.”

“In some cases people are able to tell us the identity of the perpetrators,” he said, even as he declined to state whether the attackers came from any specific racial, religious, or political groups.

Asked why so many incidents occurred in Monmouth County, Cohen told NJJN that “part of the reason is there are people there who are sophisticated and comfortable enough to contact the ADL,  and when incidents like these happen, they are not going to let them lie. They are going to do something about it.”

In other communities, Cohen theorized, “maybe people don’t feel empowered to report them to law enforcement.

“An important takeaway is that when these incidents happen — no matter how great or small — they should be reported to the police.”

“When people are standing on their driveway and a car drives by and some people inside shout, ‘Die Jews,’ there is some form of recourse,” said Cohen. “You don’t have to take it. You can call the police and the ADL and let us know about it.”

He said such reporting enables the ADL to “identify criminal and non-criminal actions, including distribution of hate literature.”

The audit, said Cohen, “provides an annual snapshot, one specific aspect of a nationwide problem  we use to identify changes and trends in the types of activities reported.” It also helps ADL develop and improve its programs that aim “to prevent the spread of anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry.”

On a national level, Cohen noted “a marked increase in anti-Semitic  incidents during the 50 days of conflict between Israel and Hamas over last summer. Anti-Semitism was a part of the strain  of the anti-Israel movement.

“You can absolutely be opposed to Israel and have questions about Israel’s policies,” he said. “But when you have incidents that blame what happened in Gaza on all Jews and you have anti-Semitic comments that equate Zionism to racism, and anti-Semitic abuse on posters and placards and swastikas on pictures of Israeli soldiers, then we stop having a civil conversation.”

Even as he noted that “we are not experiencing things in America like we have seen overseas, the increase in incidents is a reminder that anti-Semitism is real and continues to pose a threat. This is a time to be vigilant. This a time to come together and to build respectful, inclusive communities that are free from hatred. bigotry, and anti-Semitism.”

rwiener@njjewishnews.com

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