By Cathi Conti Sinsabaugh
Anti-Semitism in the Washington region took a significant shift away from acts of vandalism toward incidents of harassment and assault, the Anti-Defimation League said Tuesday.
ADL’s annual survey of incidents found that last year had the third-highest number of anti-Semitic incidents since 1979, despite a decrease from the previous year.
Though the 1,879 incidents in 2018 dropped from the 1,986 incidents in 2017, the number of anti-Semitic assaults more than doubled, to 39 from 17.
The report counts cases of assault, harassment and vandalism. The vast majority of the incidents last year were harassment or vandalism — 1,066 and 774, respectively.
According to the report, the last three months of 2018 were “unusually active” in terms of incidents. The shooting at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue at the end of October “likely drew more attention to anti-Semitic activities,” the ADL said.
The Washington regional data includes Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia and the District. The regional breakdown is as follows:
Maryland: 39 total incidents (Assault: 1; Harassment: 32; Vandalism: 6), an 11 percent increase from 2017
District: 31 total incidents (Assault: 0; Harassment: 28; Vandalism: 3), a 3
percent decrease from 2017
Virginia: 31 total incidents (Assault: 0; Harassment: 20; Vandalism: 11), a 9 percent decrease from 2017
“We are deeply concerned by the interpersonal nature of the anti-Semitic incidents in our region,” said Doron F. Ezickson, ADL Washington regional director. “Whether perpetrated by classmates, neighbors or strangers, we cannot allow this bigotry to be normalized in our communities. Our programs and efforts with community partners, local schools and universities, and law enforcement are a vital first step to confronting the challenges of anti-Semitism and all forms of hate. These and other efforts have helped strengthen communities against the impacts of bias and bigotry. But we all have a responsibility to remain vigilant and to realize in our own lives and social interactions the values and principles we want our society to demonstrate.”
The highest number of anti-Semitic incidents occurred in 1994 and the second highest in 2017. Last year’s number matches the total for 1991, the third most recorded in one year. The organization has been
measuring anti-Semitic crimes annually since 1979.
The report referenced the shooting at a Chabad synagogue in Poway, Calif., on Saturday, in which an assailant killed one and wounded three.
“We’ve worked hard to push back against anti-Semitism, and succeeded in improving hate crime laws, and yet we continue to experience an alarmingly high number of anti-Semitic acts,” ADL’s national director, Jonathan Greenblatt, said in a statement Tuesday. “We unfortunately saw this trend continue into 2019 with the tragic shooting at the Chabad synagogue in Poway.”
Greenblatt said that based on the ADL data from 2018, “Anti-Semitism is an important conversation that the U.S. needs to be having right now. For 40 years, we’ve conducted our audit to provide a snapshot of the anti-Semitism nationwide, so that policy makers and people in authority can work to curb it. You need to understand the phenomenon in order to combat it effectively.”
Greenblatt spent much of the weekend in the San Diego suburb of Poway, sitting with friends of the victims of the Chabad synagogue shooting, praying with the rabbi’s family and talking to the press.
“It was an exhausting and emotionally draining weekend and yet it couldn’t be more pertinent,” Greenblatt said. “It almost serves as a punctuation mark for 2018. Unfortunately, what was experienced in San Diego is what many Jews felt in 2018: harassment, violence and intimidation experienced at near historic levels in the U.S.”
Cathi Conti Sinsabaugh is editor of the Baltimore Jewish Times, an affiliated publication of Washington Jewish Week. JTA News and Features contributed to this article.