In July 2017, a Holocaust memorial at Congregation Sons of Israel in Lakewood was vandalized with an anti-Semitic banner promoting a white supremacist group. Several weeks later, a Jewish student was harassed while walking on the campus of Rutgers University. And in January, swastikas were found scrawled in an apartment building in Fair Lawn.
These are just a few of the 208 incidents of anti-Semitism the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) tracked, analyzed, and addressed in New Jersey in 2017.
Meanwhile, both in New Jersey and across the country, we have seen extremist groups emboldened online and in the real world. Anti-immigrant hostility is escalating. Threats to religious liberties proliferate, including through zoning ordinances aimed at curtailing Orthodox communities in New Jersey, as it becomes tougher and tougher to maintain meaningful ties across ethnic and religious lines.
To be in the strongest and most agile position to address the pressing and varied challenges we face, the ADL office serving northern and central New Jersey recently merged with the ADL New York Regional Office. While we are very proud of what our New Jersey office was able to accomplish with limited resources, this move will allow us — at this critical time — to pursue ADL’s mission in the metropolitan area with greater resources, efficiency, and capacity.
Together, the unified ADL New York-New Jersey Office can reach more schools and students to educate against hate and prejudice while teaching values of diversity and inclusion, and build safe and inclusive school climates through ADL’s anti-bias and bullying prevention programs that reach over 1.6 million students across the country each year.
We can train more law enforcement officials serving New Jersey communities on how to recognize and investigate hate crimes while continuing to offer expertise on extremists of every variety. We can advocate for elected and appointed officials in New Jersey to adopt policies that promote harmony and the common good, and to speak up when incidents of bias occur. And we will champion Israel’s right to exist in safety and security alongside its neighbors.
As director of the newly formed ADL New York-New Jersey Office, I look forward to harnessing that energy, momentum, and passion for ADL’s mission as we grow and deepen our work in northern and central New Jersey.
Our unique resources, experience, and history position ADL to face our society’s challenges unlike any other organization.
Indeed, the challenges are daunting. According to the 2017 ADL Audit, anti-Semitic incidents in New Jersey increased 32 percent compared to the 2016 audit. We have seen an increase in anti-Semitic harassment, vandalism, and, of particular concern, episodes of anti-Semitism in K-12 schools. No community or town is immune to this concerning trend.
The surge in anti-Semitic incidents conceals a subtler, but perhaps even graver, threat. Alongside the rise in incidents, we are seeing a normalization of hateful behavior and ideology. Elements of prejudice and bigotry that were previously confined to the margins of society are moving more and more into the mainstream.
While some have grown complacent in the face of such frequent manifestations of hate and prejudice, we never will. ADL will continue to be at the forefront of the campaign against anti-Semitism and all forms of hate, just as we always have been.
In March, when hate revisited Congregation Sons of Israel in Lakewood, ADL was there. Within a year, this synagogue was targeted once again. This time, swastikas and hateful graffiti were spray-painted in the vicinity of the memorial to the Shoah.
In the aftermath of incidents like these, ADL springs into action with a holistic, multilayered response. Vanguard America, a white supremacist group that believes America should be an exclusively white nation, was responsible for the incident. The group spreads their hateful propaganda via the internet and through the distribution of fliers, posters, and stickers. ADL’s Center on Extremism has monitored this group’s activities for many years. We are able to share this information with law enforcement to better protect the communities they serve, and understand the threats against them.
ADL provides resources to help keep synagogues and Jewish institutions safe and secure, and offers guidance on how to respond to threats. We also distribute educational materials to teachers and parents on how to talk to children about anti-Semitism and hate, and what to do in the aftermath of a bias incident. Last year, 10 northern New Jersey schools participated in ADL’s “No Place For Hate,” a program designed to empower schools and students to challenge all forms of bigotry. On the state level, ADL is constantly working with coalition partners to support more inclusive state policies for immigrant, refugee, and other communities.
New Jersey, one of our country’s most diverse states and home to one of its largest Jewish communities, is at the forefront of our fight against hate and intolerance. Anchored by our century-old mission — to protect the Jewish people and secure justice and fair treatment to all — the newly combined ADL New York-New Jersey Office will champion this fight. We will work hard to protect the New York and New Jersey communities. We will collaborate with teachers and administrators to foster school environments so that they are free of bullying and prejudice. We work toward the day when no individual is subject to anti-Semitism or hate.
I encourage you to engage with us on our many different areas and platforms: Please follow us on Twitter @adl_nynj, like us on Facebook, visit our web site at newyork.adl.org or contact me by email, firstname.lastname@example.org. Most important, if you are aware of or witness an act of anti-Semitic harassment, intimidation, or violence, please do your part: Report it to ADL.
ADL will continue to fight the good fight, but we can’t do it alone. We need your help, and we need all good people to stand up and speak out when anti-Semitism, racism, and bigotry rear their ugly heads.