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Reports of anti-Semitism incidents soar in New York

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Workers lift up a toppled gravestone at Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery, where nearly 200 grave markers were vandalized in the 124-year-old Jewish cemetery, in University City, a suburb of St. Louis, Mo., Feb. 21, 2017. The number of reported anti-Semitic incidents surged 57 percent in 2017, according to an annual report by the Anti-Defamation League.
February 27, 2018 11:30 pm

Anti-Semitic incidents are on the rise across the country, according to a report published Tuesday by the Anti-Defamation League.

The number of anti-Semitic incidents in the state jumped 91 percent, or 200 to 380, between 2016 and 2017, according to the report.

The Anti-Defamation League, which has been tracking the data since 1970, said New York is seeing bigger increases than other states across the country.

No specific numbers for Columbia and Greene counties were listed in the report. But counties north of Westchester and Rockland, which include the Twin Counties, reported a total of 54 incidents in 2017, according to the report.

Nationally, the Anti-Defamation League said there were 1,986 anti-Semitic incidents in the country in 2017. Those incidents came in the form of assaults, vandalism and attacks on Jewish institutions.

That is a 57 percent increase over the 1,267 incidents over the year prior, the report said. One out of every five of cases reported nationally occurred in New York.

Rabbi Daniel Fried has served Congregation Anshe Emeth in Greenport since 1980. He said he has not seen any reports of anti-Semitism in Columbia County in many years.

“Why it has diminished locally is because the nature of the community the demographics have changed,” Fried said. “There was a time back in the day when the Jewish community was very separate from the non-Jewish or gentile community but over the years there has been so much intermarriage. We’re really part of a community rather than a part. That would explain the lack of its manifestation in the last several years.”

But that intermingling and assimilation of cultures comes with some pluses and minuses.

“It does come as price with the blending of families and communities the distinctive Jewish lifestyle is becoming a thing of the past,” Fried said. “People are forgetting their roots. Is it a good thing or bad thing? Time will tell.”

There are also fewer Jewish people and a lack of a Jewish Community Center in Columbia County compared with cities like Albany, Fried said.

“We’re diluted,” he said. “There is not a high concentration of Jewish people here. Albany might be different. There is a vibrant Jewish life there. We lack trappings of Jewish life. We don’t have a Jewish community center. There are not that many Jewish people here.”

Across the state, there were 236 incidents of vandalism, up 61.6 percent from 2016; 133 incidents of harassment, up from 29 in 2016; and 11 incidents of assault, down 42 percent from 19 in 2016, according to the report.

But in some cases the numbers may actually be greater than reported because some incidents may go on unreported, Assistant Regional Director of the Anti-Defamation League Michael Snow said.

“Underreporting of incidents is almost a certainty,” Snow said. “It is a tricky question. It’s hard to say how much we don’t know.”

There are no specific incidents that the organization pointed to as a direct reason for the increase. But one contributing factor could be the country’s current political climate, Snow said.

“The national political climate has really soured and we see rising incivility and divisiveness,” Snow said.

The most noticeable areas where incidents have been reported are in Kindergarten-12th grade schools, Snow said.

“That is obviously very concerning,” Snow said. “These students and young people are repeating what they hear elsewhere — whether in the media or at home. We do envision the increase use of social media has played a role. This report does not include anti-Semitism online unless reported by a specific victim. Rise in hate speech and online absolutely plays a factor.”

The Anti-Defamation League regularly works with communities to change policy and the culture where instances of anti-Semitism are reported.

“[The Anti-Defamation League works] with law enforcement to recognize and prevent and investigate hate crimes and also working with elected officials to speak out when appropriate,” Snow said.

To reach reporter Amanda Purcell, call 518-828-1616 ext. 2500, or send an email to apurcell@thedailymail.net, or tweet to @amandajpurcell.