An annual report on anti-Semitism counted 211 violent incidents against Jews in California last year — a 21 percent increase from 2015. On Monday, the Anti-Defamation League published its Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents, reporting national and state-by-state numbers on everything from anonymous threats to direct physical assaults against American Jews.
According to the organization, there was an even greater spike nationwide, with a total of 1,266 incidents of anti-Semitic harassment, threats, vandalism and physical assaults in 2016 — a 34 percent jump from 2015. Much of the increase happened last November and December.
Factors contributing to the jump likely include last November's general election, Anti-Defamation League Regional Director Amanda Susskind told KPCC.
"Whether it's because of the mainstream normalization of hate that we've seen from on-high, or it's just ... the more decades that pass since the Holocaust, the more people seem comfortable making fun of it or wearing a Hitler costume to school, or making jokes about it," Susskind said. "It is striking that this kind of hate speech is becoming so commonplace among our children."
Last March, Congregation Adat Shalom in Los Angeles had the word “Nazi” written in graffiti on its synagogue. Last October in San Diego, a student went on an Instagram cyber-bullying spree, commenting “put them in the oven” and “Hitler should have used more gas” on the photos of several Jewish students.
The Anti-Defamation League's audit is comprised of anecdotes from law enforcement agencies, community leaders and victims of anti-Semitism, Susskind said, adding that the audit is not a poll and not a scientific analysis of hate crimes. Rather, it's a way for the Anti-Defamation League to keep a pulse on the presence of anti-Semitism in mainstream culture, K-12 schools and communities across the country, she said.
"That way, we can glean certain trends and find hotspots to be aware of," she said.
Because of its large population compared to other states, California's number of incidents will likely always put it at the top of the Anti-Defamation League's audit, Susskind said. The spike in the number of incidents in California echoed spikes in other states with high populations of Jewish people such as New York, Florida and Massachusetts, according to the report.
According to the report, in 2016, the 1,266 anti-Semitic incidents included:
720 harassment and threat incidents, an increase of 41 percent over 2015
510 vandalism incidents, an increase of 35 percent
36 physical assault incidents, a decrease of 35 percent.
In its report, the Anti-Defamation League also cites 34 incidents linked directly to the election.
“We’re not saying that anybody’s calling for this kind of thing to happen,” Susskind said. “More, we're saying that there has been a certain normalization of hate rhetoric [during the presidential campaign], as well as a failure to stand up and denounce it when it does happen.”
Public officials in L.A. have stepped up in recent months to address the state's growing number of hate crimes. Last November, local leaders held a press conference to condemn "un-American" crimes motivated by someone's race, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation.
The Anti-Defamation League has published its annual audit of anti-Semitic incidents since 1979, according to its website.
Along with numbers from 2016, the organization released preliminary numbers of anti-Semitic incidents from the first quarter of 2017. So far this year, 541 anti-Semitic incidents have been recorded around the country — an 86 percent increase over the same period last year.