The Anti-Defamation League released data today indicating that anti-Semitic assaults doubled in 2018, compared to the previous year. Reported assaults spiked from 21 victims in 2017 to 59 people last year, a count that included the 11 people murdered at Tree of Life synagogue last October. Anti-Semitic incidents also remain at all-time highs, accounting for nearly 2,000 reports of harassment and vandalism. Both harassment and vandalism have seen a nearly 50 percent rise since 2016.
While a part of the general public may be under the impression that anti-Semitism is a new, unusual, or extreme form of bigotry, the ADL pointed out that most anti-Semitic incidents are actually not directly attributable to extremist groups or ideology; only about 250 of last year’s anti-Semitic acts had a direct link to extremism. This means that “regular” people are committing a majority of these acts of bigotry. That being said, anti-Semitic acts with connections to extremists are at their highest level in 15 years, indicating that these individuals and groups are growing in influence.
The ADL report comes out on the heels of this weekend’s shooting at the Chabad of Poway, a synagogue outside of San Diego, California. The shooter, a teenager named John Earnest, shot and killed 60-year-old Lori Gilbert Kaye, injuring three others. One of the injured was Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, who penned an op-ed for the New York Times to share his sense of loss, disbelief, and resolve to ensure that everyone in this country has equal access to freedom and liberty. “After the massacre in Pittsburgh, we had a community training. Now that training kicked in,” he said of the moment that he came face to face with the shooter in the entrance of his synagogue. Kaye, the only casualty that day, had protected the rabbi with her own body.
Goldstein recounted the way that the shooter’s gun jammed up, giving two of his congregants — an Army veteran and a border patrol agent — the opportunity to end the shooting. He described the malfunction as an “amazing miracle;” we now know that the shooter still had 50 unfired rounds in his gun.
The parents of the shooter released a statement decrying their son’s actions. “Our sadness pales in comparison to the grief and anguish our son has caused for so many innocent people. To our great shame, he is now part of the history of evil that has been perpetrated on Jewish people for centuries.” They shared their chilling confusion over how their son, who had been taught love over hate, could perpetrate an act of terrorism. He now faces the death penalty.
Authorities have reported that the shooter had penned anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim ravings on an online forum that has been known to host bigotry. He may also be connected to a Mosque fire that occurred in late March. Doing her part to be a better ally of the Jewish community, Representative Ilhan Omar on Tuesday likened acts of anti-Semitism to those motivated by Islamophobia. “Just this week, when we’ve had the attack in California on a synagogue, it’s the same person who’s accused of attempting to bomb a mosque. So I can’t ever speak of Islamophobia and fight for Muslims if I am not willing to fight against anti-Semitism.”
Omar expressed her belief that bigots and terrorists have become emboldened over the course of Trump’s presidency. ADL data suggests that she’s onto something: a vast majority of anti-Semitic, terrorist, and extremist acts from the past 14 months have been linked to “right wing” ideologies — about 1,700 incidents — compared to only six incidents motivated by “left wing” or “Islamist” ideologies.
In a statement released yesterday, George Selim, a senior vice president at the ADL, called upon legislators to turn the tides of domestic terrorism in order to prevent future tragedies. “It is incumbent upon our leaders to continue fighting anti-Semitism at every opportunity. We will continue to advocate for legislative and other remedies to ensure that there is no place for anti-Semitism in our society.”