Anti-semitic Vandalism Dropped 7 Percent in 1986, ADL Survey Shows
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Anti-semitic Vandalism Dropped 7 Percent in 1986, ADL Survey Shows

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Acts of anti-Semitic vandalism, including bombings and arson, directed against Jews, Jewish institutions and property totaled 594 across the United States in 1986 — a drop of 7 percent from the 638 incidents reported in 1985.

Assaults, harassment and threats against Jewish individuals and institutions showed virtually no change in 1986 — a total of 312 such incidents as against 306 reported in 1985.

These were the principal findings of the annual audit conducted by the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith and made public Thursday. The survey described as “troubling” a rise in serious anti-Semitic incidents on college campuses, up from 12 in 1985 to 19 in 1986.

According to Burton Levinson, ADL’s national chairman, the overall 1986 figures reflect a general downward trend in anti-Semitic incidents over the past five years which “in all likelihood is due to passage of anti-bias crime laws, more vigorous law enforcement and counteraction programs.” In the past few years, 29 states have adopted stricter laws aimed at curbing ethnic vandalism, many of them based on ADL model legislation.

The ADL audit revealed that New York, with 186 vandalism incidents (down from 199 in 1985) led the nation, followed by Florida with 79 (up from 47 in 1985), California, 62 (down from 85) and New Jersey, 48 (down from 74). Fifty-seven arrests were reported in connection with 33 vandalism incidents across the country compared to 78 arrested in 48 vandalism incidents the years before. As in past years, the overwhelming number of those arrested were in their teens.

Particularly noted was the fact that despite efforts by anti-Semitic extremists to scapegoat Jews for the economic hardships of farmers, the number of vandalism incidents in the Midwest’s major farm states remained low and showed no significant change.


The 19 anti-Semitic incidents reported on college campuses included the vandalizing of succahs at four colleges, the defacement of Jewish student property, the painting of anti-Semitic graffiti on campus buildings, and harassment of Jewish students stemming from friction with supporters of the Palestine Liberation Organization and other anti-Israel groups.

Noting that the anti-Semitic incidents took place against a background of recent increases in racial incidents on campuses, the audit said that “any expression of prejudice or atmosphere of intolerance toward any minority at any education institution merits urgent action.”

The ADL’s survey, the eighth since 1979, was based on data reported in 33 states and the District of Columbia as gathered through the monitoring activities of the agency’s 31 regional offices.

The audit report was prepared by the Research Department of the ADL’s Civil Rights Division headed by Justin Finger.

In a section on counteraction, ADL described a new legal approach taken by Shaare Tefila, a Maryland synagogue, which was defaced by anti-Semitic graffiti and is seeking damages under the Civil Rights Act of 1866 that bans racially motivated discrimination. ADL has filed an amicus curiae brief in the case which is now before the U.S. Supreme Court.

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