New Jersey had more reports of anti-Semitic incidents than any other state in 2008, despite a slight decrease in the number of reports statewide, according to the Anti-Defamation League's annual audit.

Nationwide, incidents of vandalism, harassment, and physical assaults on Jewish people or Jewish-owned property declined for the fourth straight year, the ADL said in a report released Monday.

New Jersey totaled 238 incidents in 2008, compared with 247 in 2007. California was second with 226, and New York was third with 207. Pennsylvania ranked fifth with 97 incidents.

"It's heartening to see a decline in incidents," said ADL New Jersey regional director Etzion Neuer. "But we continue to see a troubling persistence of hate in New Jersey, indicating how anti-Semitism still remains embedded into the fabric of our society."

Neuer attributed New Jersey's high ranking, in part, to the state's large Jewish population and law enforcement's proficiency in tracking incidents.

"We have a population that feels confident law enforcement will be able to investigate and do something," he said.

The ADL's 2008 audit comprises official crime data, as well as information provided to regional offices by victims, law enforcement officers, and community leaders.

Monmouth County had the most incidents reported, with 43. In South Jersey, Gloucester County had 13, Burlington County nine, and Camden County six.

Most of the Gloucester County incidents involved vandalism - usually swastikas, many of them in public schools.

"It remains an incredibly painful symbol to the Jewish community because it invokes the Holocaust," Neuer said.

He said the state's mandated Holocaust education had to go beyond memorization of dates and facts.

"It's not enough to learn that kind of history unless [students] are also taught that they must be respectful to those who are different from them," Neuer said.

Contact staff writer Cynthia Henry at 856-779-3970 or chenry@phillynews.com.