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There’s A Disturbing Rise In Anti-Semitic Assaults In The US

The internet served as a conduit for the dramatic spike in hateful language and assaults against people in the Jewish community

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79 percent of the assaults reported took place in New York — Getty Images
Jun 22, 2016 at 7:19 PM ET

At the historically progressive University of California at Berkeley, the words “Zionists should be sent to the gas chamber” were scrawled in a campus bathroom. At Yale University, a sign noting that “YALE IS A JEW HOLE –LET’S ROUND THEM UP” was found posted near the university’s Connecticut campus. At UC Davis, swastikas were spray-painted on the side of a Jewish fraternity house on the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.

These are just three of the nearly 100 anti-semitic incidents reported on college campuses across the country in 2015, a year marked by a 91 percent spike in anti-Jewish rhetoric and crimes at some of the country’s most liberal and progressive schools, according to a new report. But beyond the walls of these learning institutions, the general public has also taken a hit, with its own rise in anti-semitic incidents, according to The Anti-Defamation League, which released its annual audit on Tuesday. And the internet, along with social media platforms like Facebook and Instragram, served as a conduit for the dramatic spike in hateful language and violence against people in the Jewish community.

“Online hate is particularly disturbing because of the ubiquity of social media and its deep penetration into our daily lives, plus the anonymity offered by certain platforms which facilitates this phenomenon,” said Jonathan Greenblatt, the ADL’s chief executive officer. “The issue has grown exponentially in recent years because the Internet provides racists and bigots with an outlet to reach a potential audience of millions.”

In many cases, however, the harassment extends beyond computer screens into the real world.

In all, the ADL catalogued 941 reported anti-semitic incidents across the country in 2015, a modest three percent increase from 2014. A more troubling statistic is the spike in anti-semitic assaults in 2015, which increased by more than 50 percent from 2014, according to the report.

In one instance, in June of last year, a man was walking to his Staten Island home when a group of teenagers threw a rock at his head. When he asked them about it, one of the teens said, “Yeah motherfucker, we threw the rock at you…Let’s knock the yarmulke off his head. Let’s kill this motherfucker. Should we beat him?” In other incidents, also in New York City, men walking on the sidewalk wearing traditional Jewish garb were shot with pellet guns and paintball guns. In Florida, a rabbinical student was walking when a man on a bike yelled at him. “Jews should go back to Auschwitz. Hitler was right.” The student replied, “Why don’t you come back here and say that?” And that’s exactly what happened—the man on the bike rode back towards the student, repeated his anti-semitic comment, and then started punching him.

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The majority of the reported assaults against Jews happened in New York state, which has one of the largest Jewish populations in the country. The reason New York is such a hotbed for anti-semitic assaults is unclear.

“There is not one profile of assailant that is targeting the victims, but 79 percent of the assaults reported took place in New York, mostly in Brooklyn, and primarily against people who were visibly identifiable as Jewish,” Jason Turetsky, an assistant research director with the ADL’s Research Center, told Vocativ. “So we do know that one factor is that people who are identifiably Jewish are more likely to be singled out for violence.  While anti-Semitism is a fundamental element of extremist ideologies of all types, the majority of assaults in the Audit do not appear to be ideologically motivated.”

Turetsky noted that Jews in New York are vigilant in reporting anti-semitic crimes—more so than in most places—which may play a role in why so many of the reports come from New York.

“We are disturbed that violent anti-Semitic incidents are rising,” said the ADL’s Greenblatt. “And we know that for every incident reported, there’s likely another that goes unreported. So even as the total incidents have remained statistically steady from year to year, the trend toward anti-Semitic violence is very concerning.”