Antisemitic incidents are on the rise throughout the United States. The Anti-Defamation League reported 2,717 antisemitic incidents over the course of 2021, which averages out to more than seven antisemitic incidents a day that year. With recent developments, such as rapper Kanye West (now called Ye) virally spouting anti-Jewish vitriol, the problem threatens to get worse.
In response, Jewish organizations are hoping to provide resources for victims and witnesses of antisemitic events so they can properly deal with the growing scourge. Locally, the Jewish Federation of Howard County has created a tool where people can report antisemitic incidents on its website and be provided with resources on both how to cope and how they can fight antisemitism in the community.
“This is an idea that came out of a task force and a team that we put together a number of years ago with the Jewish Relations Council, where they identified recommendations of how we can respond and work to address and combat antisemitism in our community,” explains Joel Frankel, executive director of the Jewish Federation of Howard County. “The rise in antisemitism in this country over the past five-plus years has really caused many people in our community to question how they express their Judaism in public.”
Frankel credits the idea for the tool to Betsy Singer and Laura Salganik, co-chairs of the Jewish Community Relations Council. The council was responsible for researching antisemitic instances in the Howard County area and making recommendations for what Jewish leaders could do to address harassment against Jewish people.
The Jewish Federation of Howard County specifies that many of the instances of local antisemitism consist of bullying and unfair targeting. In addition to full-on hate crimes, it is crucial that the above categories are also submitted so that they can be properly analyzed and assessed.
The reporting tool, launched on Oct. 20, is a form people can use to detail anti-Jewish encounters they have experienced or witnessed. Submitters have the option to be contacted by the Jewish Federation about their reports, so they can receive extra support or speak with a community official.
“We know that there is not a one-size-fits-all response to these incidents. The alliances that we have built over the past few years with government entities and with other minority community organizations will enable us to respond to each incident appropriately,” says Singer. “We are prepared to act as a mediator, a connector, a problem-solver or simply a compassionate listener. This response system is not just a reporting tool; it is an opportunity to begin two-way conversations with individuals affected by bigotry and hate.”
Since its launch, the tool has received a number of submissions. While it may seem disheartening that there is already such a need for it, Frankel notes that the swift response shows how much an ability to report antisemitism was needed in the community.
“We’ve learned two primary lessons from the past,” he says. “One is that these things often go unreported. That’s why we think this form is important. Just by putting it out there, we’re hoping that people begin reporting occurrences that they might not have otherwise thought of reporting.”
The other lesson, he points out, is that incidents reported to outlets such as law enforcement, governmental organizations or clergy members are often not properly communicated from one organization to another. He adds that the form “will help enable that type of cross-organizational communication.”
The Howard County Federation’s hope is that data accumulated from the reporting tool will also help identify trends in antisemitism. This will allow officials to work with their partners, such as law enforcement and other Jewish community organizations, to keep people safer.
“Howard County remains a very positive place for Jews to thrive,” says Frankel. “But when something does happen, we want to help people feel that there’s a place that they can turn to — and we are that place. And we want to make sure that we can create a community here in our county where Jews feel safe being Jewish, however they choose to do so.”