In 2016, incidents motivated by hatred against Jews increased by 34 percent, according to new data released by the Anti-Defamation League this week. The data also show doubling in the amount of anti-Semitic bullying and vandalism at non-denominational K-12 grade schools.
Nearly 60 Jewish community and organization leaders heard the alarming news about the rise of anti-Semitism and anti-Jewish attitudes in the United States during a joint meeting of JUF's Jewish Community Relations Council and the Jewish Federation's Government Affairs Committee on April 24. In addition to discussing the results of a recent study of anti-Semitic attitudes, the panelists also shared strategies for combatting hate and bigotry.
The timely discussion followed on the heels of a series of recent anti-Semitic attacks in Chicago and throughout the U.S.
"As we have witnessed in the past several months, anti-Semitism is, unfortunately, still very much alive today in America," said JCRC Chair David T. Brown. "The vandalism of the Chicago Loop Synagogue in January was one such attack against our community. We continue to assess the threats and respond to them and recognize that many other communities are also feeling vulnerable and uncertain."
The ADL survey, which has been conducted since 1964, showed a slight increase in anti-Semitic attitudes to 14 percent in 2016 from 12 percent in 2015. However, a steady and troubling one-third of those surveyed continue to believe that American Jews are more loyal to Israel than to the U.S., said Lonnie Nasatir of the ADL Greater Midwest Region.
"This result goes to the heart of the anti-Semitic stereotypes that Jews not only control things, but do so to the detriment of the United States," Nasatir said.
The recent rise in anti-Semitic harassment and incidents comes from both the right and the left, he said. Nasatir specifically noted the so-called alt-right's harassment of Jewish journalists taking place throughout the presidential campaign as well as provocations against Jewish and pro-Israel students on college campuses, which are primarily the purview of the left.
"We need to be vigorous and speaking out forcefully against both these extremes," he said. "Education is key: we need more anti-bias training, especially in terms of viewing 'the other' as a positive rather than a negative."
Nasatir also noted that key findings indicate that Jewish communities need to more strategically partner with communities of color, including joint projects on issues of mutual concern and engaging in personal interaction based on similar value systems.
The Jewish Federation has been actively supporting and testifying on behalf of several anti-hate legislative efforts at the city, county, and state levels. Most recently, Federation's Associate Director of State and Local Government Mara Ruff, along with Chicago Human Relations Commissioner Mona Noriega, ADL, law enforcement agencies, and targeted groups, testified at a hate crimes subject matter hearing at City Hall on April 26, before the Human Relations Committee.
Also at the JCRC/Government Affairs meeting, Karyn Bass Ehler, chief of the Illinois Attorney General's Civil Rights Bureau, noted that her office regularly receives reports of anti-Semitic incidents and many other forms of hate and bigotry. Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan recently convened a round-table of more than 20 community groups that shared their recent experiences, fears and uncertainty, in which JCRC participated.
Ehler also reported that one strategy to combat hate currently making its way through the Illinois General Assembly is House Bill 3711, which offers amendments to the Illinois Hate Crimes Act by adding the crimes of intimidation, cyberstalking and transmission of obscene messages to this list of crimes that can be prosecuted as hate crimes in order to address an increasing use of technology to attack victims. The legislation also ensures all victims of hate crimes are afforded the ability to file a civil cause of action in response to such incidents and imposes civil penalties.
"Strengthening the hate crimes law will help people feel safe in Illinois, no matter who they are or what they believe," she said.
Richard Goldberg, Gov. Bruce Rauner's Chief of Staff, said that the governor prioritizes tacking anti-Semitism through preparing law enforcement for dealing with incidents as well as through highlighting education, particularly curricula focusing on the Holocaust, and working on initiatives that thwart the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanction movement that frequently uses anti-Semitic language.
Goldberg said collaboration between various law enforcement sectors is key to successfully enforcing existing anti-bias and anti-hate crimes laws. In the plans are new courses for Illinois State Police cadets focusing on hate crime prevention and investigation as well as educational opportunities for other law enforcement bodies.
"If we continue to be confident in our principles, we will defeat this scourge," Goldberg said.
For ADL's survey results on anti-Semitism in America, visithttp://bit.ly/2p9IpIe.