Anti-Semitic incidents in the United States spiked 57 percent last year, with significant increases in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, according to a report released Tuesday by the Anti-Defamation League that also detailed disturbing examples throughout the region.
In Pennsylvania, the league recorded 96 anti-Semitic incidents last year, a 43 percent increase over 2016. In New Jersey, the league reported 208 anti-Semitic incidents, a 32 percent increase.
"We cannot ignore the recent spike of anti-Semitism in New Jersey," Nancy K. Baron-Baer, the league's regional director for Pennsylvania and New Jersey, said after the report was released.
Nationally, anti-Semitic incidents had the highest percentage increase in 2017 since the league began auditing such crimes in 1979.
"Bigots feel emboldened to flaunt their hateful attitudes more publicly than ever, as illustrated by a near-doubling in acts of vandalism," Baron-Baer said in an interview. "Our children are under assault from twice as many anti-Semitic incidents in our schools. The time is now to act against this growing threat."
The audit detailed vandalism and harassment in both states and three physical assaults in New Jersey. Pennsylvania State Police data — collected separately — reflects an increase in hate-crime incidents as well in 2017. A spokesman for the New Jersey Attorney General's Office said crime statistics were not yet submitted for last year, but Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal was aware of the league's findings.
"I do believe that, as a nation, we are seeing an alarming increase in intolerance," Grewal said in an e-mail to the Inquirer and Daily News, adding he would take a close look at how bias crimes are reported, investigated, and monitored. He will also be advancing initiatives to educate students and train law enforcement, he said.
"Too many people are taking the wrong lead and displaying a willingness to judge others and question their patriotism or worth based on how they look, how they worship, where they were born, or their sexual identity or orientation," Grewal said. "That is not what America is about, and it is not what New Jersey is about."
The national league compiled data using incidents reported to the group, police reports, and reports from other groups that track such crimes. The increase may partly be the result of better reporting from people concerned about civil discourse nationwide, Baron-Baer said. Additionally, law enforcement agencies are more sensitive to such crimes and providing more training for officers.
However, Baron-Baer emphasized there has been a significant increase in crimes as people may be more inclined to act as President Trump has supported anti-Semitic politicians and posted anti-Semitic tweets. He also failed to adequately condemn the actions of neo-Nazis and white supremacists who chanted, "Jews will not replace us" in Charlottesville, Va., she said.
A counterprotester died when one of the protesters ran her over with his car. Trump said there were some "very fine people" among the marchers and there was "blame on both sides" for the violence.
"We want him to speak up … against hatred and intolerance," Baron-Baer said of the president.
Among the examples cited regionally in the report: In Philadelphia, employees of a Jewish nonprofit discovered swastikas spray-painted outside their apartment building in September.
In Burlington County, a synagogue was vandalized in November by someone who used roof shingles to spell out racial and homophobic slurs. Also in Burlington County, a man targeted a Jewish family with a campaign of anti-Semitic harassment, including making Holocaust-related comments and encouraging violence against the family in August, according to the report. There were also examples nationwide.
"A confluence of events in 2017 led to a surge in attacks on our community – from bomb threats, cemetery desecrations, white supremacists marching in Charlottesville, and children harassing children at school," Jonathan A. Greenblatt, the league's CEO and national director, said in a statement.
Earlier this month, the league announced an initiative in Philadelphia called "Courageous Conversations Between Cops and Kids," which brought together city officers and middle school and high school students to strengthen the relationship between teens and police. Both sides responded positively, said Jeremy Bannett, a regional director for the league who coordinated the program.