NEW YORK (Feb. 2)
For the first time in six years, the Anti-Defamation League has reported a decline in anti-Semitic incidents in the United States.
There were 8 percent fewer incidents in 1992 than in 1991, and the most serious types of anti-Semitic vandalism declined by almost 50 percent, the lowest number since 1988.
The figures were contained in the agency’s annual audit of anti-Semitic incidents, released Tuesday at a news conference in Washington.
“While we welcome the reported reduction of anti-Semitic incidents reflected in the audit, one year of decline is not a trend,” said Melvin Salberg, ADL national chairman.
A total of 1,730 anti-Semitic incidents were reported last year, the second-highest total in the annual audit’s 14-year history.
The record was set in 1991, with 1,879 incidents reported that year.
At the news conference, Sen. Paul Simon (D-III.) and Rep. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) joined Salberg, ADL National Director Abraham Foxman and ADL Washington representative Jess Hordes in discussing the audit.
Schumer will soon introduce legislation that could increase prison time for those convicted of hate crimes. The bill would allow federal judges to impose harsher penalties if the crime was motivated by hate based on race, ethnicity, religion, gender or sexual orientation.
A similar bill, also introduced by Schumer, died in the last Congress.
The showing in the ADL audit of a decline in anti-Semitic incidents of about 8 percent was tracked in each of the survey’s two main categories: vandalism and harassment.
There were 856 acts of vandalism against Jewish institutions and Jewishly owned private and public property reported in 1992, a decrease of 7.7 percent from 1991.
And there were 874 acts of anti-Semitic harassment, threat and assault reported in 1992, down 8 percent from the preceding year.
MORE HARASSMENT THAN VANDALISM
In a continuation of a trend first discerned in 1991, there were more anti-Semitic incidents of harassment, threats and assaults than vandalism.
“This ‘in your face’ anti-Semitism may signal a new tendency to engage in direct confrontations with Jews and further erodes the taboo against open bigotry,” Salberg said.
There were 28 reported cases of the most serious types of vandalism — arson, attempted arson, cemetery desecration and synagogue bombings — which made it the lowest number in four years and a decline of 43 percent since 1991.
They included seven cases of arson, four attempted acts of arson, one bombing and 16 cemetery desecrations.
This significant decline “may be attributable to the ever-increasing attention being paid to the hate crime problem by law-enforcement agencies around the country,” said the ADL report.
One indication of this is the fact that there were far more arrests in 1992 in connection with hate crime investigations — 86 — than there were in 1991, when there were 52 such arrests.
Also, just 18 percent of the reported anti-Semitic incidents targeted Jewish institutions, while 44 percent took place in public areas, such as public schools or office buildings. This indicates, according to the report, that Jewish organizations and synagogues are being better protected by security personnel than they were in the past.
The other 38 percent of the vandalism cases took place on Jewishly owned private property.
One arena in which there was a dramatic upsurge in anti-Semitic activity was on the campus, both at the high school and college levels.
There, anti-Jewish activity rose to its highest levels ever, with 114 incidents reported last year. That represents a 12 percent increase over 1991 and a doubling in the number since 1988.
The number of affected campuses — 60 — did not change from 1991.
38 PERCENT DECREASE IN NEW YORK STATE
In addition to the overt anti-Jewish incidents recorded in the audit, other more subtle but ominous developments — the popularity of Holocaust revisionists and stridently anti-Jewish and anti-Zionist speakers — have contributed to a sense of unease among Jewish students at many colleges and universities, according to the report.
The 1992 audit, prepared by the research department of the ADL’s Civil Rights Division, includes data from 39 states and the District of Columbia, reported to ADL regional offices by victims, community leaders and law enforcement officials.
It includes anti-Semitic acts that are not crimes, like distributing neo-Nazi pamphlets and making slurs against Jewish individuals.
The state reporting the most acts of anti-Semitism was again New York, with 157 incidents, down a significant 38 percent from 1991.
New Jersey saw an increase of 53 incidents, bringing the total to 155 for 1992. California reported a drop of eight incidents, to 116, while Florida saw an increase to 69, up by 26 acts.
Massachusetts was down 16 for a total of 52, while Pennsylvania was down six, for a total of 43.
(Contributing to this report was JTA correspondent Deborah Kalb of States News Service in Washington.)