2019 saw the most anti-Semitic incidents in the United States since at least 1979, according to the Anti-Defamation League. Yet the 12 percent increase across the country pales with the rise of incidents in New Jersey, which rose 73 percent from the year before. The Garden State’s 345 incidents in 2019, the most it ever recorded, according to the ADL, was up from the 200 incidents reported in the previous year.
New Jersey saw increases in all three categories of the report — assaults, harassment, and vandalism — and the year ended violently with a shooting at a kosher grocery store in Jersey City which left three civilians dead, as well as a policeman who was killed by the assailants shortly before their arrival at the market.
Fourteen out of 21 N.J. counties saw an increase in incidents, and Morris County had the largest percent increase over the year, from 11 in 2018 to 29 in 2019. Examples include synagogues in Morris Plains and Florham Park receiving anti-Semitic emails and Facebook posts. After Morris County the greatest year-to-year percentage jumps were in Ocean, Monmouth, Camden, and Essex counties.
“We are alarmed by the dramatic increase in anti-Semitic incidents in New Jersey,” said Alexander Rosemberg, deputy regional director of ADL’s New York/New Jersey region, in a prepared statement.
The ADL’s annual audit on anti-Semitic incidents is compiled using data reported to the organization — from people affected, community leaders, and law enforcement — and then evaluated by its Center on Extremism. While ADL attributes some of the increase to better reporting, that is “not sufficient to account for the enormous jump in incidents recorded last year,” according to the statement.
The upward trend in bias incidents is “not surprising,” according to Kenneth Stern, director of the Bard Center for the Study of Hate and an expert on anti-Semitism.
“I am concerned, not only with what was reported for 2019, but what will happen in 2020,” he said in a telephone interview with NJJN. “In this environment, with Covid, not just with anti-Semitism, there is a lot of ‘us vs. them.’ We also see anti-Muslim and anti-Asian hatred.”
Social media is one culprit, according to Stern. “Increases in incidents in New Jersey and elsewhere are not a surprise with the level of hatred we see on social media,” said Stern. “That may not be the real world, but when what is expressed on the internet moves into the real world, it is concerning.”
Nationally, the 2,107 incidents recorded in 2019 are more than double the 942 incidents recorded just four years earlier, in 2015, and the most recorded by the ADL since it began tallying incidents in 1979. Aside from a small dip in total incidents in 2018, the ADL’s annual statistics show that anti-Semitism in the United States has been on a steady climb for much of the past decade.
Last year saw a number of high-profile anti-Semitic incidents, including the attacks in Jersey City, which the N.J. attorney general’s office is investigating as domestic terrorism motivated by anti-Semitic and anti-law-enforcement sentiments. Eighteen days later, an attacker killed one person and wounded four in a stabbing at a Chanukah party in Monsey, N.Y., and in April 2019 a gunman killed one person and wounded three in a synagogue shooting in Poway, Calif., during Passover.
“This was a year of unprecedented anti-Semitic activity, a time when many Jewish communities across the country had direct encounters with hate,” Jonathan Greenblatt, the ADL’s CEO, said in a statement accompanying the report. “This contributed to a rising climate of anxiety and fear in our communities.”
New York City was hit especially hard in 2019: More than half of the year’s 61 anti-Semitic physical assaults took place in the five boroughs. Brooklyn felt the brunt with 25, more than a third of the total.
New York state recorded a total of 430 anti-Semitic incidents, the most of any state and a fifth of the national total; the state is also home to more than a fifth of American Jews.
New Jersey’s 345 incidents ranked second in the U.S., followed by California’s 330. Every state in the continental United States and Washington, D.C., saw at least one incident.
Local anti-Semitic or bias incidents can be reported at adl.org/reportincident or by calling 973-845-2821.