ADL Reports Highest Incidence of Anti-semitism in Five Years
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ADL Reports Highest Incidence of Anti-semitism in Five Years

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Last year witnessed the highest number of anti-Semitic incidents in the United States in over five years, according to the 10th annual audit of such events released Thursday by the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith.

This was the second straight year in which there was a sharp upswing of anti-Semitic acts and harassment, following a four-year downward trend. New York, California and Florida were the leading states where such incidents took place.

“A troubling undercurrent of anti-Jewish hostility remains beneath the surface of American society,” the report stated.

Anti-Jewish acts included 823 incidents of vandalism in 1988, compared with 694 the year before; and 458 cases of harassment last year, compared with 324 in 1987.

For the first time since 1981, the ADL called a news conference to discuss the findings. They were motivated by concern over what ADL’s national director, Abraham Foxman, called “disturbing statistics.”

Foxman pointed out factors that contributed significantly to the pronounced increase, including the Palestinian uprising in the Israeli-administered territories.

ADL counts a total of 117 anti-Semitic incidents linked by their perpetrators to the intifada, a factor of almost one out of 10 of all such incidents in 1988.

But Foxman said the intifada was “not so much a cause, but an excuse” for anti-Semitism.

Anti-Semitic vandalism tied specifically to the 50th anniversary of Kristallnacht added substantially and rather ominously to the annual toll.

During the week of Nov. 6, when both Jewish and Christian houses of worship observed commemorative services for the “Night of Broken Glass,” more than 60 anti-Semitic incidents, ranging from graffiti to threats, were recorded in all parts of the country.

That was a four-fold jump from the 15 such incidents reported during the rest of the year.


Serious crimes more than doubled in 1988. Anti-Semitic acts considered as serious crimes included seven cases of arson and seven of attempted arson, one bombing and 13 cemetery desecrations. These 28 acts in 1988 contrast with 12 in 1987.

The audit reported anti-Semitic acts in 40 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. They were compiled by the ADL’s regional offices as well as by law enforcement officials.

The report shows an increase of 18.5 percent in anti-Jewish vandalism, which included arson, bombings and swastika daubings; and a 41 percent increase in harassment, threats and assaults against Jews.

The largest number of anti-Semitic incidents last year took place in New York state. Here, 208 acts of vandalism were reported, and 115 cases of harassment, threats and assaults.

California was next after New York, with 121 acts of vandalism and 49 of harassment. This was followed by Florida, with 89 acts of vandalism and 40 of harassment. New Jersey followed with 67 acts of vandalism and 30 harassments.

Of those four states, only California’s incidents decreased from those in 1987.

Anti-Semitic vandalism was particularly prevalent in the South. The most striking case was Tennessee, which saw a jump from zero acts of vandalism in 1987 to eight, and zero incidents of harassment in 1987 to nine in 1988.

Moreover, the violent youth known as Skinheads either were found responsible or claimed responsibility for 41 anti-Semitic incidents in at least 15 states.

The most recent ADL report on Skinheads said there were more than 2,000 of them active in 21 states.


In addition, there was a steep climb in the number of incidents on college campuses in 1988 — a total of 54 such events, compared with 14 in 1987. The incidents ranged from harassment to vandalism.

Foxman said the 1988 statistics emphasize the continual need for vigorous counteraction efforts by law enforcement officials as well as community, educational and religious leaders.

He called for strict enforcement of anti-bias crime statutes, which have now been enacted in 43 states; community counteraction and informational programs; expanded educational efforts in schools; and strengthened security measures by Jewish institutions.

“Who would have imagined or believed in 1938 that 50 years after Kristallnacht … there would be a need to issue an audit or report of anti-Semitic incidents in the United States? Yet, this is the fact,” said Foxman.

The audit, which was compiled by the research department of ADL’s civil rights division, was made possible through a grant from the Harry Lipsig Endowment Fund.

An unprecedented inclusion in the report is a foreword by U.S. Attorney General Dick Thornburgh, who praised the ADL as a “leader in the fight for equal justice” and called its annual audit “an invaluable tool” whose “unblinking exposure is the first step in prevention and reform.”

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