Anti-Semitism audit finds rise in harassment, threats

 

A 2017 Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents has found a sharp rise in incidents categorized as harassment, threats or assault, according to the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Milwaukee Jewish Federation.

The JCRC audit focused on the greater Milwaukee area, but included incidents from across Wisconsin. The audit tracks the continuation of an increase in overall incidents, according to a JCRC statement.

The audit found a 30 percent increase in incidents overall, as compared to 2016. The JCRC saw “particular concern” in a year-over-year 150 percent increase in incidents falling under the categories of harassment, threats or assault.

“We’re seeing a shift in how anti-Semitism is expressed,” said Ann Jacobs, JCRC chair. “Until the last two years, the vast majority of anti-Semitic incidents involved verbal or written expression. But for the last two years, we’re seeing bold, direct and personal acts. The difference is stark and worrisome.”

Among the incidents reported:

  • Nazi flags flown outside homes.
  • Swastikas etched into cars at a dealership.
  • Swastikas and “We will rise again” painted on a bridge in central Wisconsin .
  • A comment on Gov. Walker’s Facebook page after a December Chanukah greeting called the Jewish festival a “fake holiday” and included the hashtag “MerryChristmasOrNothingAtAll.”
  • As a 13 year-old boy walked to synagogue on Friday afternoon, someone followed him and shouted at him, including the mention of “dirty Jews.”
  • A car was set on fire in the owner’s driveway and the garage was vandalized with two spray painted swastikas and the words, “go back to your own country.”

The findings shine a light on hate, said Cynthia Herber, chair of the JCRC’s Anti-Semitism and Constitutional Law Task Force. “We see that people feel emboldened and are acting on it. The audit helps us understand where we need to focus our work,” she added. JCRC Director Elana Kahn said her organization is increasing its investment in Hours Against Hate, its program that promotes respect and dismantles bigotry through one-on-one interactions.

The JCRC sees the continuation of two trends, with steadily increasing numbers of incidents in two particular areas:

  • Almost one third of all incidents take place in schools or on college campuses.
  • More than 25 percent of all incidents involved the use of social media.

“The proliferation of hate via social media is a phenomenon that affects us all, including the companies that provide social media platforms, legislators who set guidelines, and all of us who use these media,” Kahn said. JCRC will focus its June 21 annual meeting on this issue by hosting journalist Yair Rosenberg, whom the New York Times has called “a digital Nazi hunter.”

A JCRC statement did say many of this year’s reported incidents were addressed or resolved with positive outcomes, working collaboratively with schools, law enforcement and national agencies.

The audit also made note of repeated tweets by Congressional candidate Paul Nehlen, including calling another Twitter user “a shill for the sheckles.”

Each reported incident is corroborated and reviewed before any action is taken. The audit is reviewed by the JCRC’s Anti-Semitism & Constitutional Law Task Force and the JCRC board before the final approval process of the JCRC Community Council.

The JCRC mission is to speak as the representative of the Jewish community on issues of public affairs and public policy by convening and mobilizing the Jewish community through education, advocacy, social justice and support for Israel.

The JCRC strongly encourages individuals and institutions to report all incidents. It pledges full confidentiality. For more information contact ElanaK@MilwaukeeJewish.org or call 414-390-5736.