While only one anti-Semitic assault in New Jersey was reported to the Anti-Defamation League in 2015 — down from three in 2014 — acts of vandalism and harassment rose dramatically in the past year.
The figures were released on June 22, showing a total of 137 anti-Semitic incidents across New Jersey in calendar year 2015, a 28 percent increase from the 107 incidents reported during the same period in 2014.
The 137 reported incidents included 79 acts of vandalism in 2015 compared with 56 in 2014 and 57 incidents of harassment in 2015 compared with 48 in 2014.
Nationally, ADL recorded a total of 941 incidents in the United States in 2015, a three percent rise from the 912 incidents recorded in 2014. Fifty-six incidents were assaults, representing a more than 50 percent rise from the 36 assaults reported in 2014. New Jersey ranked third in the nation for anti-Semitic incidents in 2015, behind New York and California.
The sole anti-Semitic assault in the state happened in December, when an Ocean County Jewish man was spat on, punched, and called a “f—king Jew” in the parking lot of a shopping center.
To Joshua Cohen, ADL’s regional director for New Jersey, what was especially troubling was the total of 23 incidents that took place on campuses in 2015.
In January, swastikas were found drawn on bathroom walls at Montclair State University. In February, swastikas and “Heil Hitler” were drawn on bathroom stalls in the Monmouth University student center.
A month later a student at Princeton University was observed defacing a campus mural with a swastika. When asked to stop, the individual drew a second swastika.
In April a swastika and the words “Get them all” were found just outside the elevator in the student center on Rutgers University’s New Brunswick campus.
In a second incident at Rutgers, a Jewish student wearing a yarmulka was approached on Rosh Hashana by two other students, one of whom stated, “Yeah, I’d wear a yarmulka too…if I wanted to burn in Auschwitz!”
“When we look at campus issues — whether they are hate speech, Holocaust denial, or comments from friends or professors, one of the best ways is to fight it with education,” Cohen told NJJN.
“But in New Jersey we have not received any specific reports of bias in the classroom, that students are being targeted for being Jewish or pro-Israel. Should that happen, students need to report it to college administrators and also let us know as well.”
Other 2015 incidents in the state included the vandalizing of a Jewish man’s store in Lakewood with the word “JUDE” painted numerous times on its windows and signs in February, and graffiti, including the initials “SS” and the words “F—k Jews, gas them all” spray-painted on the basketball court in Randolph’s Brundage Park.
Teenagers in Jackson Township and Lakewood used social media to encourage violence against Jews and Jewish businesses, and others used social media to post photos of themselves dressed as Nazis.
“The swastika has become a ubiquitous symbol of hate,” Cohen said. “When people use it, they are sending a message of hate, whether they are targeting a Jewish person or not.”
A firecracker was thrown at a Passaic synagogue and a swastika was drawn on a bedsheet that was hung on a clothesline facing a Jewish neighbor’s house in Edison. A swastika was carved on the lawn of an Orthodox Jewish home in Lakewood, and another was spray-painted at a Jewish student’s room at Kean University in Union.
Pre-college students also took part in anti-Semitic incidents. One painted a swastika and the word “Jews!!” in the grass on an athletic field at the Dwight-Englewood School in Englewood.
A teen dressed in a Nazi uniform in Jackson Township posed for and then posted the picture on Twitter.
Part of the reason for the rise in the statistics is “a lot more reporting” of anti-Semitic incidents in New Jersey, Cohen told NJJN on the eve of releasing the report on June 22. “But for every incident that is reported, there is probably another one that goes unreported, so we always encourage people to remain vigilant and bring incidents of anti-Semitism to the attention of law enforcement and the ADL when they occur,” he added.
“People are feeling more positive about reporting such incidents to the ADL, the police, or to campus authorities when they occur at universities,” said Cohen. “The last thing we want is for victims of anti-Semitism to keep it to themselves.
“We need to know about these incidents not only so we can react to them but so we can plan proactive strategies for the future,” he said.
But, Cohen noted, “while there was a sharp increase in New Jersey this year, the number of anti-Semitic incidents overall are much lower than we witnessed in the mid-2000s.
“While the decrease nationally is encouraging, we must remain vigilant. In 2015 there were at least two anti-Semitic incidents a week in New Jersey,” said Cohen. “These numbers do not even account for all of the on-line harassment we see every hour on social media, which is so widespread it is difficult to quantify.”