Anti-semitic Incidents Down, but Still Too High, New Report Says

The number of anti-Semitic incidents in the United States decreased slightly in 2005, according to a new report. But the picture is still bleak, the annual audit from the Anti-Defamation League says.

“While any decline is encouraging, we remain concerned because too many people continue to act out their anti-Jewish hatred,” Abraham Foxman, the ADL’s national director, said. “The numbers remain sobering because we know from painful experience that it only takes one incident of anti-Semitism to affect an entire community.

“For them, it was not just a number, it was a trauma,” he added.

The audit, which looked at anti-Semitic activity across the United States in 2005, recorded 1,757 such incidents last year. These numbers are down slightly from 2004′s 1,821 incidents, which constituted the highest level of anti-Semitic activity in nine years.

Published annually since 1988, the audit breaks down anti-Semitic incidents into two categories. The first is harassment, which ADL defines as “threats and assaults directed at individuals and institutions.” The other category is vandalism, which includes cemetery desecration or anti-Semitic graffiti.

The data are mined both from official crime statistics and from information provided to ADL’s 30 regional offices by victims, law enforcement officers and community leaders. This methodology includes criminal acts, as well as non-criminal incidents.

The report’s findings show that:

Acts of vandalism decreased by 4 percent in 2005 — from 644 incidents in 2004 to 617 in 2005.

Acts of harassment decreased by 3 percent in 2005, with 1,140 incidents reported.

Harassment acts constitute 65 percent of the total incidents reported. Vandalism incidents make up the remaining 35 percent.

Ninety-eight anti-Semitic incidents were reported on college campuses in 2005. This constitutes an almost one-third increase from the 74 incidents reported in 2004.

States with the highest total incidents included New York (381), New Jersey (266), California (247), Florida (199), Massachusetts (93) and Connecticut (57).

The Internet continues to play a “substantial role” in the propagation of anti-Semitism. Though Internet messages on bulletin boards and in chat rooms were not counted in the audit, specific e-mail threats aimed at Jewish synagogues and institutions were included.

In addition to the audit, the ADL also compiles statistics on anti-Semitic attitudes in the country. In 2005, the ADL’s “Survey of American Attitudes Towards Jews in America” found that 14 percent of Americans — nearly 35 million adults — maintain views about Jews that are “unquestionably anti-Semitic.”

Foxman said American attitudes, for the most part, are on the whole better than those in European nations.

“In Europe, the numbers are higher and more serious,” he said. “But while America’s different and better, it’s not immune.”

Foxman said the annual audit is useful in determining where and how to allocate resources combating anti-Semitism.

“As much progress as we think we’ve made with legislation, litigation and education, anti-Semitism still continues to be the No. 2 hate crime in the United States,” Foxman said. “You can’t eliminate it, but you can try to keep a lid on it.”

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