New York streets were more dangerous for Jews in 2006 than the previous year. Twenty-three people reported being physically assaulted for being Jewish, a jump of more than 50 percent from the previous year.
It was also a banner year for vandalism, with 165 people on the receiving end of swastikas and other graffiti, up nearly 10 percent. The region’s most heavily Jewish area, Brooklyn, saw a 33 percent jump in anti-Semitic incidents, with a grand total of 67, and three of five boroughs saw an increase in incidents.
But the Anti-Defamation League, the organization that compiles these statistics is presenting a rosy picture to the press this week, highlighting the fact that the combined number of major and minor incidents has gone down in New York and nationwide.
The annual audit of anti-Semitic incidents by the group, the Jewish community’s primary defense agency, lumps all anti-Semitic incidents — from violent attacks to nasty e-mails — into one count. “Anti-Semitic incidents decline in New York City and statewide,” reads the press release sent Wednesday to major media outlets. Only on a later page does it refer to the increase in physical attacks on Jews. All but one of those attacks took place in New York City. The other was in upstate Monticello, where many city Jews vacation.
The national decline in overall incidents reported to ADL was 12 percent, while New York State saw a larger drop of about 25 percent. In New York City, the drop was about 15 percent.
In all cases, those figures include nuisances as well as matters investigated by police.
Traditionally, a majority of the incidents recorded happen in New York, particularly in the city, because it has the largest Jewish population in the U.S.
ADL National Director Abraham Foxman said that despite the decrease in incidents recorded, the organization was deeply concerned about the type of incidents taking place.
“We’ve had some horrendous events this year,” he said, citing in particular the shooting death of an employee at a Jewish community center in Seattle. “Even the figure of 12 percent down doesn’t mean that Jews should relax … when there is still a level of 1,500-1,600 incidents for the last 15 years — with all the awareness and all the laws there is still something like four or five [incidents] a day.”
Foxman said the purpose of the survey was to create awareness “to send a message to the law enforcement community and legislators who have to allocate funding and maybe need to re-examine legislation … to tell people responsible for stability and law enforcement that anti-Semitism continues to be a problem.”
Asked whether an aggregate summary of major and minor incidents clouds the seriousness of a rise in violent crimes, and whether the group may begin to better separate crimes from nuisance incidents Foxman said: “We will re-examine it. We may want to define it differently.”
Last November the New York Post, after obtaining figures from the New York Police Department, reported a sharp spike in anti-Semitic incidents in the five boroughs: At 95, the total before the year-end tally had already far exceeded the 74 incidents recorded in 2005. An NYPD spokesman did not respond on Tuesday to a request for the final 2006 number.
The ADL’s numbers start out much higher than the NYPD’s since they include incidents that were not classified as bias crimes by the police. In some cases, the people affected may have opted not to file a criminal complaint.
The organization also keeps track of incidents that are not criminal, just offensive, such as anti-Semitic statements (which in some instances may be considered harassment) and distribution of hateful material. With that low threshold, the ADL reported 177 incidents against Jews in 2006, down from 219 incidents in 2005 in New York City.
The report notes that distribution of hate literature or leaflets dropped considerably from 11 incidents to three, while there were 29 fewer e-mail incidents.
Those 29 fewer e-mails may account for the bulk of the decrease of 42 New York incidents between 2005 and 2006, raising the question of whether better spam-filter technology may have as much to do with driving the incident total down as any gains in tolerance.
Among the violent attacks reported to the ADL in 2006 were:A Jewish man in Forest Hills, Queens, who was punched in the face in a Muslim-owned deli in August after he and a friend were asked if they were Jewish and told to leave;
# A 12-year-old girl who was slapped by teenagers while standing on a corner in Far Rockaway, Queens, in the summer;
# A chasidic man in Brooklyn who was beaten in the face with a baseball bat in September;
# A woman who was assaulted on the subway in September by a man who said “Hitler should have killed all the Jews.”
One area that has registered a large number of complaints of attacks against Jews is Crown Heights, Brooklyn. But community leaders say several recent incidents in the neighborhood have not been classified as bias attacks because of conflicting information about the motives. “There is a lot of frustration that the police need to have a bigger presence,” said Jeff Wice, a board member of the Crown Heights Jewish Community Council. Eli B. Silverman, a professor of police science at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said he felt the authorities were properly investigating and working to prevent bias attacks.“The police are very professional in this area and take the responsibility seriously,” he said. Of the ADL statistics, Silverman said he didn’t think anyone would be misled. “Any organization will want to cast the figures in the best light,” he said. “It’s the press’ responsibility to report all the components.”