Anti-Semitic incidents soar by 57% in 2017, ADL says

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Headstones toppled and damaged by vandals lie on the ground at Mount Carmel Cemetery in Philadelphia. | AP file photo

The Anti-Defamation League is reporting a 57 percent increase in anti-Semitic incidents in the U.S. last year, the highest tally that the Jewish civil rights group has counted in more than two decades, according to data it released Tuesday.

The New York City-based organization found 1,986 anti-Semitic incidents last year, up from 1,267 in 2016. That’s the highest total since 1994 and the largest single-year increase since the group began collecting this data in 1979.

The ADL said the sharp rise includes 952 vandalism incidents, an increase of 86 percent from 2016. The group also counted 1,015 incidents of harassment, a 41 percent increase from 2016.

ADL national director and CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said the “alarming” increase appears to be fueled by emboldened far-right extremists as well as the “divisive state of our national discourse.”

“Less civility has led to more intolerance,” he told The Associated Press.

Greenblatt also acknowledged that heightened awareness of the problem likely led to increased reporting of anti-Semitic incidents.

Anti-Semitic incidents at schools and on college campuses nearly doubled for the second year in a row, with 457 such incidents reported in non-Jewish schools last year, the ADL report says.

“We should see this as an alarm, a very loud alarm that should get the attention of all of us,” Greenblatt said.

The ADL and other groups have reported a surge in the number of incidents in which far-right extremist groups have posted racist and anti-Semitic fliers on college campuses. ADL spokesman Todd Gutnick said the report’s tally only counts incidents in which fliers had explicitly anti-Semitic messages.

Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld, of Ohev Sholom-The National Synagogue in Washington, said neo-Nazis in the U.S. are emboldened “in a way I have not seen in my lifetime.”

“It’s scary,” said Herzfeld, whose synagogue received a bomb threat in April. “I think there is no question that it’s on people’s minds, and there is more of it out there.”

The ADL is urging Congress to pass legislation to expand federal protections against bomb threats to religious institutions. The legislation, approved by the House in December, awaits action in the Senate, the ADL said.

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