Audit: 1,080 Anti-Semitic Incidents Reported Across U.S. In 2011, A 13 Percent Decrease

  • January 3, 2013

A 20-Year Low

Volume of School Bullying Incidents Cause for Deep Concern

New York, NY, November 1, 2012 … The number of anti-Semitic incidents in the United States declined by 13% in 2011, according to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). The annual ADL Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents, released today, reported a total of 1,080 incidents of assault, vandalism and harassment, compared to 1,239 incidents reported in 2010.

It is the lowest number of anti-Semitic incidents recorded by ADL in the past two decades.

"It is encouraging that over the past five or six years we have seen a consistent decline in the number of anti-Semitic incidents across the country and that the numbers are now at a historic low," said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director. "To the extent that these incidents serve as a barometer, the decline shows that we have made progress as a society in confronting anti-Semitism and pushing it to the far fringes, making expressions of anti-Jewish hatred unacceptable. These declining numbers, while promising, must nevertheless be viewed in the context of other factors, including online expressions of anti-Semitism that are impossible to quantify and often go unchecked."

Among the more disturbing trends noted in the 2011 ADL Audit is the prevalence of reports across the country of incidents of school bullying, where Jewish students reported being harassed and intimidated by their peers using offensive anti-Semitic stereotypes or comments evoking the Nazis or the Holocaust.

"ADL continues to receive a distressing number of complaints about children, adolescents and teenagers engaging in anti-Semitic behavior, both on and off school grounds," said Robert G. Sugarman, ADL National Chair. "These have included physical assaults, treats of violence, and verbal and written taunts promoting anti-Semitic stereotypes or evoking disturbing Holocaust themes. We believe that these types of incidents show there is an ongoing need for comprehensive programming promoting diversity and tolerance and combating bullying of all kinds as well as a continued emphasis on Holocaust education in the schools, so that the next generation of students can fully understand the history of that period and the consequences of unchecked hatred, prejudice and bigotry."

The annual Audit tracks incidents of vandalism, harassment and physical assaults against Jewish individuals, property and community institutions across the United States, using data gathered by the League's 30 regional offices and law enforcement agencies across the country. The Audit provides an annual snapshot of the problem of anti-Semitism and assists with the identification of national trends and changes in the types of activity reported. The 2011 ADL Audit includes incidents recorded in 45 states and Washington D.C., including: 

  • 19 physical assaults on Jewish individuals
  • 731 cases of harassment, threats and events
  • 330 cases of vandalism

Vandalism incidents featuring the swastika symbol continue to affect communities around the country. While the Audit tracks instances of anti-Semitic vandalism, such as swastikas targeting Jews or Jewish institutions, it does not include in its totals swastikas that do not ostensibly target Jews, such as those that explicitly target other minorities or those that are used out of context simply for shock value. This methodology acknowledges that despite its strong association with Nazi Germany, the swastika is no longer exclusively used to express hate against Jews, but rather has become a universal symbol of hate.

"Of the 380 swastika incidents reported, 77 (20.3%) did not appear to target Jews and were not counted in the Audit. The remaining303 swastikas were included in the audit as instances of anti-Semitic vandalism."

While the Audit does not include criticism of Israel or Zionism, such reports are included if they cross the line from legitimate criticism to anti-Semitism by invoking classic anti-Jewish stereotypes, inappropriate Nazi imagery or analogies, or references that delegitimize, demonize, and/or demonstrate a double standard about Israel. Public expressions of anti-Israel sentiments that demonize Jews or create an atmosphere of fear or intimidation for U.S. Jews are counted.

The Audit has never included the daunting number of anti-Semitic events and expressions occurring on the websites of various publications, in the blogosphere and on social media, as it is virtually impossible to quantify. However, ADL does receive and address reports from community members who have seen anti-Semitic content online. In addition, when an individual is targeted personally in an online forum and feels threatened, such an incident would be included in the Audit.

It is noteworthy that while the total number of anti-Semitic incidents in the United States has declined, it comes at a time when international anti-Semitic attitudes remain at disturbingly high levels and when there has been another explosion of serious incidents.

Majority of Incidents Concentrated in Handful of States

Continuing a consistent trend, the states with the highest totals were those with large Jewish populations.  The top four states wereCalifornia, with 235 incidents in 2011, down from 297 in 2010;New York, with 195 incidents, down from 205; New Jersey, with 144 incidents, up from 130 and Florida, with 111 incidents, down from 116.

According to the ADL Audit, states with double-digit totals in 2011 include Massachusetts (72, up from 64 in 2010); Connecticut (43, up from 38); Pennsylvania (38, down from 42 in 2010); Illinois(21, down from 28) and Texas (17, down from 37).

In addition, 2011 saw multi-state violent plots that appeared to target Jews by white supremacists, including David Pedersen and Holly Grigsby, who allegedly researched the names and addresses of Jewish organizations in several West Coast cities to identify Jewish victims to kill and created a draft "press release" to alert the media about such killings. They were allegedly traveling to Sacramento to target Jews when police apprehended them in October following a three-state murder spree that left four people dead.

Danny Lee Warner, Jr., a convicted felon who was active in a white supremacist prison gang and had a long history of serious violence, was arrested in December after violating parole and allegedly sending his wife a letter that read, "I'm headed down South to kill some niggers and Jews until the government gets me -- hopefully I'll get enough to make it all worth it before I go."

Selected Incidents in 2011

Within the harassment category, the following is a list of selected incidents that represent anti-Semitic bullying of children, adolescents and teenagers by their peers:

  • Campbell, California: A Jewish middle school student was called a "stupid Jew" and a "dirty Jew" by classmates, who also stated "burn all the Jews," and claimed they would commemorate Hitler's birthday by burning down his house. (February)
  • Washington, Connecticut: An elementary school student told a Jewish classmate, "Your family deserves to be killed" and "I hate Jewish people." (March)
  • El Paso, Texas: A middle school student received a text message from a classmate that read, "Jew, I'm going to call [redacted] and have him bomb you and put you in the oven, you roasted Jew… just like your ancestors." (April)
  • Atlanta, Georgia: A 10-year old student received a note from a classmate featuring a hand-drawn picture of a gun, a swastika, and a stick figure labeled "Jew" with an arrow pointing to it. (May)
  • Pensacola, Florida: A Jewish adolescent was told by a classmate, "I am a Nazi, you are a stupid Jew, I am going to cut you up into pieces, feed it to a dog, and kill the dog to put it out of its misery." (August)
  • Huntsville, Alabama: Classmates of Jewish students at a high school have taunted them, including by leaving voicemail messages with anti-Semitic jokes on their cell phones and urinating on one of them. (September)

Across all categories, the following is a list of selected anti-Semitic incidents that took place on college or university campuses:

  • Milledgeville, Georgia: A Jewish college student received anti-Semitic messages on Facebook from her roommate's friends including "I hope you burn in hell you f--- Jew." (February)
  • Tallahassee, Florida: A Jewish college student overheard two roommates saying they would "paint swastikas in red all over the wall so it looks like blood" and "write 'Kike' on her bedroom door." (April)
  • Milton, Massachusetts: A college student was jumped on and bitten by a neighbor in his dormitory who had previously made anti-Semitic comments, including "look at the Jew looking at his money" and "Hitler had got it right." (November)
  • Kalamazoo, Michigan: On the anniversary of Kristallnacht, students ran through the halls of a university dormitory using Nazi slogans and gestures and yelling "Heil Hitler." Additionally, the window of a Jewish student's room was broken. (November)

A total of 731 cases of anti-Semitic harassment were also recorded. Incidents included verbal attacks and slurs against Jewish individuals (or individuals perceived to be Jewish). Anti-Semitism was conveyed in written or electronic communications, including cyber bullying, as well as in speeches, during picketing, or at events. The following is a selected list of harassment incidents in 2011:

  • Manhattan, New York: A receptionist at a Jewish institution reported to police that the following messages were left on her answering machine: "F--- Jewish Bastards," "I will hunt you down every day," and "Long live Hitler." (April)
  • Washington, DC: A Jewish institution received four consecutive phone messages from the same individual containing hostile, anti-Semitic rants, including the statements, "Hitler had some things right", "You can all go to hell", "Why in the world should anyone protect the Jews?", and "you Jews have played too much on the whole Holocaust thing." (July)
  • San Fernando Valley, California: Two individuals in a car drove past Jewish pedestrians and shouted, "We're going to kill all you f--- Jews." (August)
  • Monroe Township, New Jersey: While standing in the common area of building complex, a resident was approached by an individual with a bat who stated, "Jew bastard. They should have killed all you Jews." (December)

ADL recorded 19 anti-Semitic assaults on Jewish individuals, which is a slight decline from 22 in 2010. Some of the incidents involved spitting, biting, use of physical force and/or violence and thrown objects. The following is a selected list of assaults counted in the Audit:

  • Villa Park, California: A boy who refused to take a Bible from evangelists handing out Bibles at his school was knocked to the ground and kicked by another student while being called anti-Semitic names. (April)
  • Brooklyn, New York: A woman approached a man leaving a bank, called him a "f--- Jew" and spat at him, hitting him in the face before adding, "F--- all Jews." (June)
  • Atlanta, Georgia: Occupants of a passing pickup truck threw an egg at a man in a synagogue parking lot as he exited the building. The incident was part of a spate of incidents targeting the synagogue and its congregation, including car burglaries and bagels being scattered on people's lawns and tied to nearby trees. (December)

The Audit also documented 330 cases of anti-Semitic vandalism in 2011, which is an increase from 317 in the prior year. Incidents are individually evaluated by ADL and are categorized as anti-Semitic based on the presence of anti-Semitic symbols or language; the identity of the perpetrator(s), if known; and the target of the vandalism and its proximity to Jewish homes, communities, and institutions. 
Some examples of vandalism incidents include:

  • Lake Stevens, Washington: A Jewish couple discovered "F--- you Jews" scrawled in red marker on their home. (March)
  • Calabasas, California: Anti-Semitic slurs, including "triple the six million" and "gas chamber," and images of swastikas and Adolf Hitler were found spray-painted on walls, doors, sidewalks and a stop sign at a public high school. The vandalism also included names of teachers and students. (April)
  • Long Branch, New Jersey: A billboard ad featuring a baby was vandalized with the phrase, "Jewish kids love the chamber." (May)
  • Brooklyn, New York: An unknown person wrote "F--- you. All Jews are Bitches" on a family's sukkah. (October)

About the ADL Audit

The Audit identifies both criminal and non-criminal acts of harassment and intimidation, including distribution of hate propaganda, threats and slurs.  Compiled using official crime statistics, as well as information provided by victims, law enforcement officers and community leaders and evaluated by ADL's professional staff, the Audit provides an annual snapshot of one specific aspect of a nationwide problem while identifying possible trends or changes in the types of activity reported.

This information assists ADL in developing and enhancing its programs to counter and prevent the spread of anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry.