According to a recent report from USA Today, hate crimes in New Jersey have fallen each year since 2011. That might seem somewhat encouraging, at least on the local level, considering that the FBI reported a seven percent increase in hate crimes nationally between 2014 and 2015. But look past the surface and you’ll find the numbers show an unsettling trend.
Despite the overall decline in New Jersey, hate crimes against Muslims rose significantly — from four in 2014 to 14 in 2015. The uptick is similar to what has occurred nationally, but not quite: Religiously-motivated crimes against Muslims were up 67 percent nationwide in 2015, compared to the 250 percent increase in our state.
Doubtlessly many Jews are not concerned by this, unsympathetic toward a religious group they’ve famously clashed with for centuries. But even though hate crimes motivated by race, ethnicity, and sexual preference decreased, those based on religion went the other way, and Jews were the most frequent target. While just six percent of the population in New Jersey, Jews were the victims of 113 religiously motivated hate crimes in the state, to just 20 against Muslims and other religions, according to the report.
The incendiary rhetoric of President-elect Donald Trump has suggested to members of the alt-right movement and bigots previously on the fringes of society that they can come out of the shadows and tell us how they really feel. And they have, with several recent reports of swastikas and other racial slurs appearing in graffiti throughout New Jersey, including incidents in Lakewood, South Brunswick, and Marlboro.
It’s time to acknowledge that Jews in New Jersey are being targeted, and longstanding grudges be damned, we need to band together with our historical cousins to fight off this threat from within our local and national borders.