ADL Reports 1991 Was Record Year for Anti-semitic Incidents in U.S.
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ADL Reports 1991 Was Record Year for Anti-semitic Incidents in U.S.

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1991 was a record year for anti-Semitic incidents in the United States, according to a nationwide survey conducted by the Anti-Defamation League.

The ADL recorded 1,879 acts of violence, threat and harassment against Jews for the year, an 11 percent increase over 1990 and the highest number since the agency began its annual audit of anti-Semitic incidents 13 years ago.

For the first time, there were more attacks on Jewish individuals than against their property, with 950 incidents of harassment, threats and physical assault reported — a 25 percent increase over 1990 — and 929 incidents of vandalism.

The number of physical assaults of Jews, 60, was twice the 1990 figure, and included the August murder of Australian scholar Yankel Rosenbaum by a gang of black youths in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn.

The past year also saw the greatest number of “serious crimes” ever reported, according to the audit, which was released Thursday.

Twelve incidents of arson, six bombings, one attempted bombing and 22 cemetery desecrations added up to 29 percent more serious crimes against Jews than the previous high in 1990.

Anti-Jewish activity on campuse remained at the “disturbingly high” level of 1990, according to the audit, but may have leveled off after increasing 72 percent over the last three years.


Last year, 101 incidents of anti-Semitism were reported at 60 colleges, with 23 of the campuses experiencing multiple problems. The previous year, 57 campuses reported 95 incidents, with 11 of them reporting more than one.

Politically related anti-Semitism, which occurred largely during the Persian Gulf War in the first two months of 1991, also multiplied.

Eighty anti-Semitic incidents in 14 states were linked by their perpetrators to the war for several months, beginning with the start of Operation Desert Storm on Jan. 16.

At least 20 Jewish organizations received mail and phone threats. They included swastikas and statements such as “Death to Jews,” “All Jews will burn and die in hell” and “Keep checking for those letter bombs.”

The ADL attributes the overall surge in anti-Semitic acts to “the erosion of longstanding barriers against the expression of anti-Semitism.

“In the worlds of politics, culture and education, Jew-baiting, anti-Semitic scapegoating and conspiracy accusations have become not only more common, but more casually tolerated and rationalized. Such ideas, and the words that express them, have consequences,” the ADL report says.

“The vastly increased level of harassment and assault incidents in recent years may signal a change in the tactics of many individuals wishing to express anti-Jewish hostility,” it warns.

“It would appear that there is a new willingness by those inclined toward anti-Semitism to engage in direct, provocative confrontation with Jews, a kind of ‘in-your-face’ intimidation, reflective of that erosion of the taboo against such open bigotry,” the report states.

Nowhere is this erosion “reflected more clearly or disturbingly than in the proliferation of bigotry and violence in the lyrics of some of the best-selling popular music of the day,” the report says.

One positive sign in 1991 was a significant decrease in Skinhead-related anti-Semitic acts, attributed by ADL to “effective law enforcement action at the federal, state and local levels.”


There were 62 Skinhead-perpetrated acts of anti-Semitism reported in 16 states in 1991, almost half the number reported in 1989, when 116 were recorded in 24 states. In 1990, 87 Skinhead incidents took place in 21 states.

Of the 1991 Skinhead episodes, 36 were acts of vandalism, including an arson of a Jewish-owned business, and 26 were harassment and threats directed at individuals and organizations.

Four Skinheads in Pennsylvania and Connecticut were arrested in connection with two of the incidents.

On a state-by-state basis, New York led the country in vandalism. The state experienced 254 acts of vandalism, up 68 from 1990.

California followed, with 124 incidents, and New Jersey came in third, with 102. Both were decreases by five from the previous year.

Next were Massachusetts, which reported 68 incidents, the same as in 1990; Pennsylvania, with 49, which was up five; Florida, with 43, down 22; Maryland, with 41, down 15; Illinois, with 27, down six; Texas, with 24, up 19; Connecticut, with 21, up five; Michigan, with 20, up four; Colorado, with 17, down 18; and Ohio, with 17, down six.


The most notable anti-Semitic incidents in 1991 included:

Three days of rioting in Crown Heights, Aug. 19-21. More than 100 incidents of personal assault, harassment and property damage were reported, including 23 cases in which Jews suffered serious bodily injury.

A firebombing, four arsons and four attempted arsons at three synagogues in the Los Angeles area between January and April.

A spate of vandalism, harassment and violence directed against congregants at two Orthodox synagogues in Boca Raton, Fla., between May 15 and the end of July. The incidents included smoke bomb attacks, drive-by shootings, BB gun shootings, as well as verbal assault.

The desecration of two synagogues in Dayton, Ohio, in November, on the 53rd anniversary of Kristallnacht. They were spray-painted with swastikas and the word “Jude.”

A violent intimidation campaign by Skinheads against a Jewish-owned store in Knoxville, Tenn. In one incident, Skinheads hurled a rock, decorated with a swastika, through the window of the store. A note attached to the rock said, “Don’t let Jew bastards run the country.” A Molotov cocktail was also thrown into the store, and anti-Semitic graffiti were painted on the front door.

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