Search JTA's historical archive dating back to 1923

Anti-semitic Incidents Increase After Years of Decline, ADL Says

January 27, 1988
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Anti-Semitic vandalism in the United States increased by 17 percent in 1987 to 694 incidents, ending an essentially downward trend, according to the annual Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents conducted by the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith.

The audit includes vandalism and desecration of Jewish institutions and property, ranging from swastika daubings to arson. It found anti-Semitic episodes in 34 states and the District of Columbia. Ten incidents involved arson or bombings.

The rise from 594 episodes in 1986 largely reflects a 121 percent increase in such acts in California — from 62 reported acts of vandalism in 1986 to 137 last year.

New York state reported the highest number of anti-Semitic incidents, with 207, 21 more than those reported in 1986. California was second, followed by Florida, where the 64 reported anti-Semitic acts is 15 less than last year.

Other leading states were New Jersey, with 43 incidents, down five from 1986; Illinois, 36, an increase of 22; Massachusetts, 27, up three; and Pennsylvania, 22, down seven.


Anti-Semitic incidents in the West were up 104 percent from 1986, with the California episodes contributing largely to this increase. Figures for the West comprised 22.6 percent of the national total, up from 13 percent of the total in 1986.

Among the 157 such incidents in the West were nine in Colorado, four in Washington, three in Arizona and one each in Oregon, Nevada, New Mexico and Montana.

The audit was based on reports gathered by ADL’s 31 regional offices, individuals and law enforcement authorities. The 1981 audit reported 974 anti-Semitic incidents, followed by 829 in 1982, 670 in 1983, 715 in 1984 and 638 in 1985.

ADL national director Abraham Foxman called the 1987 audit “disturbing.” He singled out the following findings:

Some of the more serious vandalism incidents in Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami and San Diego, and about 20 incidents all told were perpetrated by Skinheads — neo-Nazi youth who shave their heads and demonstrate violent anti-Semitic and anti-black behavior. They “accounted for no more than two episodes in several previous audits,” the report said.

The increase in anti-Semitic incidents came, paradoxically, during a period of vigorous local law enforcement and statutory efforts against bias crimes, as well as the recent federal crackdown against hate groups. There were 78 arrests connected with 58 of the anti-Semitic incidents, a sharp increase over the 1986 total of 57 arrests in connection with 33 incidents.

Although a majority of perpetrators were teenagers, 17 of those arrested — one-fifth of the 78 persons arrested — were 21 years old or older, the highest proportion in that age group ever recorded.


Other troubling manifestations of anti-Semitism, said Foxman, include the activities and campaigns of a range of organized hate groups; the denunciations of Israel by anti-Zionist groups; and vestiges of discrimination and stereotyping still found in the corporate world and other areas of American life.

The audit singles out Nov. 9 in Chicago — the anniversary of Kristallnacht — when II separate Jewish targets were vandalized in the Chicago area. A Skinhead gang member was arrested in connection with one of the attacks.

In addition, arson was blamed for major damage to a synagogue each in Massachusetts and California. There were unsuccessful arson attempts at Jewish institutions in New York, Pennsylvania and Georgia. Arsonists also attacked a home in Maryland, and Jewish homes in Georgia and Ohio were hit by pipe bombs.

Cemetery desecrations were down in 1987 to two, the lowest reported total ever for such acts.

Separate figures were kept for threats and harassment incidents directed against Jews or Jewish institutions, usually by mail or telephone. Of 324 such incidents reported in 1987, 16 involved physical assault on Jews “which were clearly motivated by bigotry.”

In addition, 244 Jews were harassed by mail, telephone or in verbal confrontations. The 1986 figure for threats and harassments was 312, including 11 physical attacks.

Eighty of the incidents in 1987 were directed against Jewish institutions in the form of hate mail and telephone threats. Such incidents totaled 71 the previous year.


Anti-Semitic incidents on college campuses declined in 1987, down to 14 from 19 in 1986, according to the ADL’s Civil Rights Division. Most incidents involved verbal slurs or hate mail.

Four campus incidents involved the targeting of Jewish property or institutions such as Jewish fraternity houses or Hillel student organization buildings. Schools in Florida, Pennsylvania, Colorado and California reported anti-Semitic graffiti.

Foxman said the 1987 findings reinforce the need for stricter law enforcement to apprehend perpetrators of bias crimes, strengthened security measures for Jewish institutions, and educational efforts in the community and in schools to sensitize public concern to racially or religiously motivated crimes.

Foxman pointed out that in the past several years, 31 state legislatures have adopted stricter laws aimed at curbing religious or ethnic vandalism, 12 of which were enacted statutes based on an ADL model bill drafted in 1981. Foxman emphasized the need for prompt reporting of anti-Semitic incidents.

The report includes a note on the Howard Beach racial incident of late 1986, which resulted in the death of a black man. The survey quotes the ADL’s Chicago office director, Michael Kotzin, who said, “Bias crimes inflict a special hurt. . . a sense of vulnerability, of suspicion of isolation.”

The survey outlines programs to counteract bias, including stricter legislation, bias-crime reporting, lawsuits against perpetrators for civil damages, security conferences, coordination of police and local institutional leadership and the use of instruction manuals to counteract prejudice, including the ADL handbook “Security for Community Institutions.”

The need to confront prejudice must start in the classroom, the report says. The ADL has published and distributed a manual for prejudice-reduction instruction in schools, as well as an anti-bigotry program to stress the pluralistic nature of American society.

Recommended from JTA