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Nine-Year Hate High

Nine-Year Hate High

Note: Due to inaccurate statistics provided to The Jewish Week, the rate of anti-Semitic incidents on Staten Island was incorrectly reported to have risen drastically in the print edition. The number actually declined from 16 to 6 in 2004.

______________________The number of anti-Semitic incidents in Manhattan rose drastically last year, part of a surge in bias incidents against Jews across the country that reached a nine-year high, the Anti-Defamation League announced this week.

At the same time, the group found that the number of Americans whose answers to a survey suggest strongly anti-Semitic attitudes was statistically unchanged from the last survey in 2002. ADL’s annual audit of anti-Semitic incidents listed 1,821 nationally, up 17 percent from 2003. Most of the incidents involved vandalism, and there were no reported injuries.While New York, which has the largest Jewish population, continues to lead the nation in anti-Semitic incidents, the Empire State saw a slight drop, from 364 to 350.But in New York City, the tally rose to 227 from 192, with the rate nearly tripling in Manhattan from 38 to 105, although the number of incidents dropped in the other four boroughs. The suburbs and upstate New York also saw a drop.

The findings are the opposite of ADL’s 2003 audit, which found an increase in New York state and a drop nationally from the previous year.

The ADL attributed the 2004 increase to organized neo-Nazi hate groups and friction in public schools, where 13 percent of the incidents took place. “There was a spike in schools of children being told ‘You killed Christ,’ ” said ADL national director Abe Foxman. “We haven’t seen epithets in those numbers for years.” ADL and other groups in recent years have substantially increased their educational efforts to fight anti-Semitism and other prejudices. But at the same time, Foxman noted, hate groups are also working harder to achieve the opposite effect, while young people have increasing access to hate messages via the Internet. “Although we are doing more there are more people to deliver it to, but also and a lot of counterveiling forces,” said Foxman. “It is much quicker to teach kids to hate than to teach them to unhate.”

Based on a telephone survey of 1,600 adults, conducted in mid-March, the ADL believes that 14 percent of Americans, or nearly 35 million people, hold “unquestionably anti-Semitic” views, slightly less than 2002’s 17 percent. The poll’s margin of error is plus or minus 2.8 percent.

ADL’s pollsters found the number of people surveyed who believe Jews have too much power in the United States dropped to 15 percent from 20 in the last survey.

But the number of non-Jews who hold Jews responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus rose slightly, from 25 to 30 percent, while the percentage who believe Jews are more loyal to Israel than to the United States has held steady since the last poll in 2002, at 33 percent. Prior surveys in 1998 and 1992 found the number at 31 and 35 percent, respectively, suggesting that the idea is holding firm.

“We are stuck with some hard-core, classical anti-Semitic canards,” said Foxman. “The power issue continues to be out there and the issue of loyalty has always been a horrendous element in anti-Semitism. To find it so vibrant in America … is scary.”

The poll found that 36 percent of African Americans surveyed hold strongly anti-Semitic views as do 19 percent of American-born Hispanics, similar to previous polls. The number of foreign-born Hispanics believed to have anti-Semitic views, however, dropped from 44 to 35 percent.

After New York, the states with the highest number of incidents were New Jersey, California, Florida, Massachusetts and Connecticut, all of which saw an increase.

Incidents listed in the 2004 audit include:

a.. The smearing of feces on a yeshiva in Brooklyn and a Jewish day school in Miami.

b.. Harassment of patrons at a Connecticut mall by members of a hate group raising Nazi salutes.

c.. Painting of swastikas and other graffiti in Houston, Eureka, Cal., Westchester, Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan.

d.. And the arson of a Jewish cemetery in West Roxbury, MA. ADL’s report lists both criminal and non-criminal incidents, including the distribution of hate literature, threats and slurs.

A spokesman for the New York Police Department said officials were hopeful that a new initiative to fight graffiti, which includes hidden surveillance, would result in identifying more vandals responsible for swastika attacks.

“Whenever there is a rash of swastikas or other graffiti it is of great concern to the department,” said Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne. “Very often we will find the same person doing multiple graffiti attacks.”

Browne cautioned that the rise in incidents in Manhattan may have less to do with factors in that borough than with the presence of individuals there with strong inclination to act.

“You can’t read too much analysis into geography per se,” said Browne. “One individual may be responsible for a 100 percent or plus increase. I don’t know if it lends itself to too many conclusions about what’s going on from borough to borough.”

Twenty-six states, including New York, now have statutes creating higher penalties for crimes motivated by bias.

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