In what may be a surprising development given worldwide trends, anti-Semitic incidents in the United States in 2001 dropped 11 percent to the lowest point in more than a decade, according to the Anti-Defamation League’s annual audit.
California saw the biggest decline — more than 50 percent — among the 40 states where incidents were recorded. New York was second, with a 15 percent drop, although the Empire State led the nation with 408 acts of intolerance.
Florida saw the nation’s largest numeric increase, from 81 incidents to 115. Slight increases were seen as well in Georgia, Connecticut, Maryland, Rhode Island, Nevada, Oregon, Iowa and Nebraska, although the totals in those states were in the low-double or single digits.
The national decline, from 1,606 incidents to 1,432 — the same number recorded in 1989 — occurred at a time when anti-Semitism in Europe and anti-Jewish violence in Israel was on the rise, and some in the United States blamed U.S.-Israel ties for the Sept. 11 attack on America.
But Abraham Foxman, ADL’s national director, said in a statement that the numbers made it “clear that the American people did not buy into the anti-Semitic conspiracy theories that blamed Jews for the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.”
Foxman also partly attributed the decline to increased security and awareness.
The attacks recorded by ADL’s 30 regional offices in the 40 states and District of Columbia included 877 acts of harassment — verbal intimidation, threats and physical assaults. That number was unchanged from 2000. But acts of vandalism dropped to a 20-year low, from 729 to 555.
Sixty-one percent of the incidents took place in the East.
There were 238 incidents recorded in New York City, down from 275 in 2000. The bulk of incidents were in September and October, a time when attacks generally increase because of the High Holy Days. Use of the Internet and the violence in the Mideast were cited as possible factors.
Of the five boroughs, only Manhattan and Staten Island saw increases: 99 incidents from 80 in Manhattan, and 12 incidents from seven on Staten Island. The steepest drop, 36 percent, was in Brooklyn, with 78, down from 121 in 2000. Queens (36) and the Bronx (13), also experienced declines. On Long Island there were 122 incidents, down from 147.
Incidents in Rockland County fell from four to two, and in Westchester from 20 incidents to 15. In other upstate counties combined there were 31 incidents, down from 35.
# Among the incidents cited in ADL’s New York regional report were:An answering machine message received by a Queens woman: “You f——-g Jewish kike. Drop dead you f—-s. I’ll kill you all in the ovens.”
# The words “Hitler was right” etched into the steps of a Brooklyn synagogue.
Rabbi Arthur Schneier of Park East Synagogue, founder of the Appeal of Conscience Foundation, said the decrease was “an indication that barriers have been removed as far as public sentiment.” He also suggested a “greater identification by the public in New York and Washington with the plight of Israelis facing terrorism” because of the attacks on those cities.
But the rabbi said growing intolerance and extremism elsewhere, and a growing Muslim population in the United States, should be a source of concern. “Whenever there is a period of transition in history,” he said, “Jews are always singled out.”