American Jews were targets of more anti-Semitic incidents in 2019 than any other year over the past four decades, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) reported on Tuesday.
The Jewish civil rights group counted 2,107 anti-Semitic incidents in 2019, finding 61 physical assault cases, 1,127 instances of harassment and 919 acts of vandalism.
That is the highest annual tally since the New York City-based body began tracking anti-Semitic incidents in 1979. It also marked a 12% increase over the 1,879 incidents it counted in 2018.
The surge was marked by deadly attacks on a California synagogue, a Jewish grocery store in New Jersey and a rabbi’s New York home.
Jonathan Greenblatt, the group’s CEO, attributed last year’s record high to a “normalisation of anti-Semitic tropes”, the “charged politics of the day” and social media.
This year, he said, the Covid-19 pandemic was fueling anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.
“Anti-Semitism is a virus. It is like a disease, and it persists,” Mr Greenblatt said.
“It’s sometimes known as the oldest hatred. It never seems to go away. There truly is no single antidote or cure.”
The ADL’s count of anti-Semitic assaults involved 95 victims.
More than half of the assaults occurred in New York City, including 25 in Brooklyn. Eight of those Brooklyn assaults happened during a span of eight days in December, primarily in neighbourhoods where many Orthodox Jews live.
“Objects were thrown at victims, anti-Semitic slurs were shouted, and at least three victims were hit or punched in their heads or faces,” the report says.
The ADL defines an anti-Semitic assault as “an attempt to inflict physical harm on one or more people who are Jewish or perceived to be Jewish, accompanied by evidence of antisemitic animus”. Three of those 2019 assaults involved deaths.
A 20-year-old former nursing student, John T Earnest, awaits trial on charges he killed a woman and wounded three other people during an attack on Chabad of Poway synagogue near San Diego in April 2019. The gunman told a 911 dispatcher that he shot up the synagogue on the last day of Passover because Jews were trying to “destroy all white people”, according to prosecutors.
Attacks in Jersey City, New Jersey, killed a police detective in a cemetery and three people at a kosher market in December. Authorities said the attackers, David Anderson and Francine Graham, were motivated by a hatred of Jewish people and law enforcement.
A 37-year-old man, Grafton Thomas, was charged with stabbing five people with a machete at a Hanukkah celebration at a rabbi’s home in Monsey, an Orthodox Jewish community north of New York City.
One of the five victims died three months after the December 28 attack. Federal prosecutors said Thomas had handwritten journals containing anti-Semitic comments and a swastika.
The ADL’s report attributed 270 anti-Semitic incidents to extremist groups or individuals. A separate ADL report, released in February, found that 2019 was the sixth deadliest year for violence by all domestic extremists since 1970.
The group counted 919 vandalism incidents in 2019, a 19% increase from 774 incidents in 2018, and 1,127 harassment incidents, a 6% increase over 2018.