The number of anti-Semitic incidents including harassment, threats, vandalism and assaults increased dramatically last year and in the first quarter of 2017, according to the Anti-Defamation League’s annual Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents released Monday.
“The audit has proven to be as bad as we felt it was,” said Yael Hershfield, ADL Florida interim regional director. “We are seeing more and more of this behavior in the mainstream and that’s problematic and troubling.”
Nationwide, there were 1,266 anti-Semitic incidents in 2016, up from 941. In the first quarter of 2017, there have already been 541 incidents, including 380 harassments.
In Florida, 137 incidents of anti-Semitism were reported in 2016, up from 91. So far this year, there have been 41 incidents in the state — seven incidents of vandalism and 34 incidents of harassment.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Miami Herald
In 2016, 26 of Florida’s 67 counties reported incidents. Most of the incidents occurred in South Florida, with Palm Beach County having the most at 42, and Miami-Dade and Broward counties each reporting 26 incidents.
Florida had the fourth-highest number of reported anti-Semitism incidents in the country, after California, New York and New Jersey, the ADA said.
The annual audit looks at both criminal and non-criminal incidents reported to the ADL and law enforcement. That includes called-in bomb threats to Jewish institutions — which has happened several times in recent months at various South Florida Jewish Community Centers — to anti-Semitic vandalism on cars or buildings. In February, swastikas were etched on several cars in Miami Beach.
Recently, the ADL released a poll that showed that anti-Semitic attitudes in the United States are up.
Hershfield said Floridasaw a larger increase in incidents than the national average. Florida’s biggest increase was in the harassment category, with 119 incidents in 2016, up from 61 in the previous year, a 95 percent jump. Vandalism incidents dropped in 2016 to 15, down from 27 in 2015.
“Hate is learned and can be unlearned,” said Florida Regional Chair Scott Notowitz. “ADL’s educational programs are designed to transform attitudes and have had a significant impact. Throughout the State of Florida, ADL will stand up and speak out against anti-Semitism no matter the source.”
Here’s a sampling of Florida’s anti-Semitic incidents in 2016:
▪ In 2016 and into 2017, Jewish institutions in Florida and nationwide received anti-Semitic and harassing faxes. Some of the offensive faxes have been linked to a hacker named Andrew Auernheimer, according to the ADL.
▪ In March 2016, an office manager for a construction company in Clearwater fired an employee, and then received a text message that said, “f*** you u stupid Jew b****.”
▪ On the eve of Rosh Hashanah, in October, the Chabad Jewish Center in Parkland and surrounding neighborhoods was vandalized with anti-Israel and anti-Semitic graffiti.
▪ In November 2016, around the presidential election, someone in St. Petersburg accosted another person and said: “Trump is going to finish what Hitler started.” According to the ADL, there were 34 such incidents nationwide linked to the election.
▪ In December 2016, a woman in Boca Raton found an anti-Semitic image showing a Jewish man with a large nose taped to her front door.
▪ In December, students at SAIL high school in Tallahassee formed a “human swastika” on school grounds.
▪ In January 2017, three synagogues in Clearwater were vandalized with anti-Semitic graffiti.
▪ In February 2017, a car in a predominantly Jewish neighborhood in Boca Raton was vandalized with a swastika.
By the numbers
The 1,266 anti-Semitic incidents across the U.S. 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
The 541 anti-Semitic incidents in the first quarter of 2017 include:
▪ 380 harassment incidents, including 161 bomb threats, an increase of 127 percent over the same quarter in 2016
▪ 155 vandalism incidents, including three cemetery desecrations, an increase of 36 percent
▪ Six physical assault incidents, a decrease of 40 percent.