By Josh Sayles
HAMDEN – The number of documented antisemitic incidents in Connecticut decreased in 2014, according to the Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) annual Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents. A total of 23 incidents were reported across the state, down from 31 incidents in 2013. The Audit identifies both criminal and non-criminal acts of harassment and intimidation, including distribution of hate propaganda, threats and slurs.
“We use the audit to help us understand antisemitic trends in Connecticut and throughout the United States over a significant period of time and some fluctuation is expected from year to year,” said Marji Lipshez-Shapiro, interim regional director of ADL’s Connecticut office. “The audit is not an exact science. We rely on law enforcement and individuals from across the state to alert us to antisemitic incidents. In a typical year in Connecticut, our figures are in the 20s or 30s.”
At issue in Connecticut is the rising number of school-based incidents. More than 50 percent (12 of 23) of the state’s antisemitic incidents occurred in a K-12 or college setting and were committed by a student, faculty member or employee affiliated with a school. In 2013, less than one-third (10 of 31) of the antisemitic incidents were school-based.
“This is a disturbing trend,” said Lipshez-Shapiro. “When we see a rise in antisemitic incidents in schools, it means that the targets of antisemitism are routinely becoming exposed to antisemitism at younger and younger ages. Similarly, many of the perpetrators of this antisemitism are espousing antisemitic beliefs at earlier points in their lives.”
Antisemitic incidents in Connecticut include:
• After giving a presentation on the Holocaust to middle school students, the presenter received a letter in the mail that read, in part: “Listen up, k**e. My kids … have better things to learn about than k**e sob stories and k**e ‘culture!’ Stop trying to make Jews of our kids! … My son and daughter should not be brainwashed with your worthless filth! Leave our American, Christian kids alone or I’ll take my rifle over there and blow your … brains out!”
• A college professor wrote an essay questioning John Kerry’s selection of Jews to help with peace negotiations in the Middle East. A key point of his argument was that anyone who is Jewish must be inherently biased in favor of Israel.
• A Jewish man quit his job after one of his coworkers refused to call him by his name, instead only referring to him as “Jew.” Another coworker routinely called him a “stupid Jew.”
• A Jewish student was told by a classmate that a concentration camp would be a good place for him to go to lose weight.
The total number of antisemitic incidents in the United States increased by 21 percent in 2014 in a year marked by a violent anti-Semitic shooting attack targeting Jewish community buildings in Kansas and anti-Jewish expressions linked to the war in Gaza.
ADL counted a total of 912 antisemitic incidents across the U.S. during the 2014 calendar year. This represents a 21 percent increase from the 751 incidents reported during the same period in 2013, and is the first time in nearly a decade of declines where the overall number of incidents has substantially risen.
“While the overall number of antisemitic incidents remains lower than we have seen historically, the fact remains that 2014 was a particularly violent year for Jews both overseas and in the United States,” said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL national director. “The fatal shootings in Overland Park, Kansas, at Jewish community centers by a white supremacist whose goal was to ‘kill Jews’ and other violent episodes were tragic reminders that lethal anti-Semitism continues to pose a threat to American Jews and larger society as well.”
Despite the increase in incidents, the total number of antisemitic acts still represents one of the lowest totals of antisemitic acts reported by ADL since it started keeping records in 1979. The annual ADL Audit encompasses incidents of assault, vandalism and harassment targeting Jews and Jewish property and institutions and includes both criminal and non-criminal incidents reported to ADL’s 27 regional offices across the country and to law enforcement.
In 2014, antisemitic incidents were reported in a total of 38 states and the District of Columbia. Those incidents are categorized in the ADL Audit as follows:
• Assaults: 36 incidents in 2014, compared with 31 in 2013;
• Vandalism: 363 incidents in 2014, compared with 315 in 2013;
• Harassment, threats and events: 513 incidents in 2014, compared with 405 in 2013.
“The reported increase in U.S. antisemitic incidents coincided with a huge upsurge in antisemitic attacks in Europe and elsewhere around the globe,” said Barry Curtiss-Lusher, ADL national chair. “A number of Jewish communities, including those in France, Great Britain and Austria, reported a doubling of antisemitic incidents over the previous year due to the conflict between Israel and Hamas. While the Jewish community here did not experience anything like the attacks overseas, the Gaza war did have an impact in terms of creating a momentary spike in incidents in the U.S.”
Antisemitic Activity During the Gaza War
Jewish individuals and institutions in the U.S. became targets of antisemitism during the Gaza war. There were 139 antisemitic incidents recorded in July, a substantial increase from the 54 incidents in July 2013. There were another 116 reported incidents in August, up from the 56 in August 2013. And there were 92 antisemitic incidents reported in September, up from 58 incidents in September 2013.
While the ADL Audit does not include criticism of Israel or Zionism, such reports are included when they cross the line from legitimate criticism to antisemitism by invoking classic anti-Jewish stereotypes or inappropriate Nazi imagery and/or analogies.
Public expressions of anti-Israel sentiments that demonize Jews or create an atmosphere of fear or intimidation by targeting Jewish individuals or institutions in the U.S. are counted. Such antisemitism was evident at many of the anti-Israel demonstrations held in cities throughout the U.S.
Rise in Hackings of Jewish Institutional Websites
The ADL Audit reported an uptick in the number of online attacks by foreign hackers targeting the websites of synagogues and other Jewish organizations.
“Jewish websites in the U.S. have become a common target for hacker groups in the Arab and Muslim world,” said Curtiss-Lusher. “While past hacking efforts against Jewish institutions have mainly focused on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the more recent attacks are being carried out in the name of the Islamic State.”
General anti-Jewish expressions on the Internet, while possibly playing a role in fomenting real-world antisemitism, are not counted for the purposes of the Audit unless they target a specific individual or institution.
“We know that online hate remains a serious problem, particularly on social media, where anti-Semitic hashtags such as ‘#HitlerWasRight’ and other offensive messages became trends during the last year,” said Curtiss-Lusher. “We have challenged Internet and social media providers to address this issue head on, and will continue to work with our partners in the industry to help them adopt community standards that will shut down hateful, racist and offensive speech before it goes viral.”
For more information on the 2014 Audit visit www.adl.org.
This article was provided by the Connecticut regional office of the Anti-Defamation League.