2018-08-01 / Voice at the Shore

ADL speaker reports disturbing increase in anti-Semitism in the United States

By ELLEN WEISMAN STRENGER Voice shore editor

ADL’S Robin Burstein spoke at Brunch & Learn at the Margate JCC on July 12. ADL’S Robin Burstein spoke at Brunch & Learn at the Margate JCC on July 12. An Anti-Defamation League audit revealed a significant increase in anti-Semitism nationally in 2017, with the third largest number of incidents happening in New Jersey as compared to other states, said Robin Burstein, senior associate regional director of the Anti-Defamation League’s Philadelphia office. Burstein spoke at a Brunch & Learn at the JCC in Margate on Thursday, July 12.

Jews in the United States have come a long way since 1913, when the ADL was founded “to stop defamation of Jewish people and secure justice and fair treatment for all,” she noted. “Jews in America no longer need to hide who they are as they once did or as they do in some other countries. Respect is the norm, and anti-Jewish bigotry is not tolerated.”

Yet according to an ADL audit that came out just a few months ago, the small number of incidents that do occur annually have recently shown a troubling increase. In 2017, the number of anti- Semitic incidents in New Jersey reported to ADL increased by 32 percent, to a total of 208. These incidents included vandalism, harassment, and three incidents of physical assault.

The audit also found that incidents of anti- Semitism in K-12 schools had nearly doubled— from 235 incidents in 2016 to 457 in 2017.

Perhaps the most disturbing finding of the audit was a 182 percent spike in anti-Semitic incidents during the month after the white nationalist rally and riots in Charlottesville last August.

“That incident didn’t happen out of nowhere,” noted Burstein, who said ADL had been monitoring the increasingly bold behavior of white supremacists for a year and a half prior to the riots surrounding the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville.

The fact that people came from 35 different states to attend the “Unite the Right” rally is also significant. It shows that the white nationalist movement “is being energized and capitalized.” People had to spend money on airfare, hotel and food to attend this event, she noted.

The ADL also tracks anti- Semitism online in social media. The most recent Twitter report found that 4.2 million anti-Semitic tweets were shared in English. Notably, those tweets came from 3 million different Twitter handles.

Burstein also talked about BDS—a movement that calls for Boycotts, Divestments, and Sanctions against Israel—on college campuses. She noted that the biggest proponent of BDS on campuses is a student organization known as Students for Justice in Palestine (a chapter of which just began at Stockton University last year).

“Most people involved in the BDS movement think they are standing up for civil rights, fighting for justice,” explained Burstein. “They don’t realize that leaders of the BDS movement are anti-Israel and seek the destruction of Israel.”

Negative and false portrayals of Israel by SJP and the media have also created a situation where Jewish groups are left out when other student groups get together to work on issues related to discrimination and oppression, since Jewish groups are seen as being aligned with Israel, which is viewed as an oppressor.

“They’re leaving the Jewish kids out and kind of demonizing the Jewish groups,” Burstein explained.

What can concerned Jewish community members do in the face of this increasing anti- Semitism? Talk to government officials you may have a relationship with to express your concerns, she said. “Meet with them and talk with them face to face.”

Also, “if you experience or hear of an incident, please report it,” Burstein told Brunch & Learn attendees. Burstein can be reached at rburstein@adl.org or 215-568-2223. s

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