Anti-Semitic incidents were down 7 percent in 2018 over the prior year, but the number remains higher than the historic statewide average, the Anti-Defamation League reported in its annual Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents, released Tuesday.

While the total number of anti-Semitic incidents also declined nationally in 2018, there was a doubling of physical assaults to 39 — including the single deadliest attack on Jews in the history in the United States at Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh.

“This was … the worst sort of anti-Semitic, in-your-face attacks," according to Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO and national director of the ADL.

>>READ MORE: ‘Everyone was her sister’: Woman killed at synagogue honored

Meanwhile, there were 200 anti-Semitic incidents across New Jersey in 2018, a 4 percent decrease from the prior year, but still the third-highest number in the nation, said Jeremy Bannett, the regional associate director of ADL’s Philadelphia office, which includes eastern Pennsylvania, South Jersey, and Delaware.

“New Jersey and Pennsylvania are the third- and fifth-highest among states for reported anti-Semitic incidents,” Bannett said.

The report said it is the second straight year of above-average anti-Semitic activity in New Jersey and “follows four consecutive years of double-digit increases in the state from 2014-2017.”

Only California, with 341 incidents, and New York, with 340 incidents, reported more cases of anti-Semitic activity than New Jersey, the report said.

“While we are moderately encouraged to see a slight dip in anti-Jewish activity across New Jersey last year, we remain deeply concerned at the high levels of anti-Semitism in the Garden State,” said Nancy K. Baron-Baer, regional director of ADL’s Philadelphia office. “We cannot allow these elevated numbers to become the new normal in New Jersey. Now is not the time to let up — we need our elected officials, law enforcement officers, faith leaders, and community members to continue pushing back against anti-Semitism.”

Greenblatt expressed the same measured optimism about the decrease in overall incidents nationally, having recently returned from California, where a shooting this weekend at the Chabad of Poway killed one woman and injured three others.

“We can only hope this is the beginning of a downward trend,” Greenblatt said. “But it’s hard to find much solace with the horrific tragedy in San Diego County. It means that anti-Semitism is virulently spreading.”

Bannett said anti-Semitic incidents include “both criminal and non-criminal acts of assault, harassment, and vandalism motivated by anti-Jewish animus.”

According to the ADL report:

  • The 89 incidents in Pennsylvania included two physical assaults, 50 incidents of harassment, and 37 incidents of vandalism.
  • The 200 incidents in New Jersey included 94 incidents of harassment, 104 incidents of vandalism, and two physical assaults.
  • Nationally, the ADL reported there were 1,879 anti-Semitic incidents last year, making it the third-highest year since the Anti-Defamation League began keeping track of such incidents in 1979.
  • This included a 105-percent surge in anti-Semitic assaults to 39, affecting 59 victims. The ADL also recorded 98 acts of anti-Semitic harassment online, an increase of 15 percent over the prior year.

In their national call-in news conference, officials noted that comments by elected officials can create an atmosphere for increased anti-Jewish hate incidents.

Many anti-Semitic tropes being used have been around for hundreds of years among white supremacist circles, Greenblatt said, but “they’ve only seen the light of day in recent years, when public office holders are referring to migrant caravans, open borders, and [hedge-fund billionaire] George Soros in their public material they posted online.”

Bannett said the goal of the annual reports is to inform law enforcement, educators, and the community at large when hate incidents are on the rise. The ADL offers resources and recommendations for lawmakers, teachers, parents, and community members at its website, www.adl.org.

“Jews truly are the canary in the coal mine,” Greenblatt said. “When anti-Semitism is on the rise, typically too are other forms of intolerance. In 2019, where Muslims and immigrants are being scapegoats, when members of Congress are repeating anti-Semitic tropes, how do we put the lid back on the sewer? It’s incumbent on our leaders to lead, to speak out, to denounce anti-Semitism and hate, not only after an attack or a crisis, but long before there’s a problem.”