Several high-profile incidents mark 2018 anti-Semitism rise in region

Graffiti at Northshore Jewish Congregation in Mandeville, Sept. 2018

On April 30, the Anti-Defamation League released its annual Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents, showing “near-historic levels of anti-Semitism in 2018, including a doubling of anti-Semitic assaults and the single deadliest attack against the Jewish community in American history.”

The audit reported 1,879 attacks against Jews and Jewish institutions across the country in 2018, the third-highest year on record since ADL started tracking such data in the 1970s. That was down 5 percent from 2017, but the 2017 numbers were boosted by over 300 bomb threats to Jewish Community Centers and schools, which turned out to be the work of a disturbed teen in Israel.

While the overall number declined from 2017, the 2018 figure is still 48 percent higher than the total for 2016 and 99 percent higher than in 2015.

Last year included the white supremacist shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue, which claimed 11 lives. The audit identified 59 people who were victims of anti-Semitic assaults in 2018, up from 21 in 2017.

In Alabama, there were nine reported incidents, as many as the previous three years combined. Mississippi had no reports, down from one last year, while Louisiana had 12, up from 10 last year. Florida had 76, down from last year’s 98. Arkansas stayed steady at three, while Tennessee went up to 10, from nine last year. Georgia had 30, down from 58.

The report noted an overall spike in the last three months of the year. The Atlanta ADL office said their four states — Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina and Tennessee — reported 13 incidents in the two months following the Pittsburgh shooting, double the previous two months.

A new interactive site, the Hate, Extremism, Anti-Semitism and Terrorism map, lists the anti-Semitic events and other hate incidents. Many of the incidents are white supremacist groups distributing flyers.

Anti-Semitic vandalism incidents in Alabama were at middle schools in Grand Bay and Mountain Brook, and at the University of Alabama at Huntsville and the University of South Alabama.

In Birmingham, a landlord told a Jewish tenant she would be “thrown on the streets like they did in the Holocaust.” Also in Birmingham, a group of men on the street called a Jewish man a “Jewish rat” and accused him of stealing land for Israel. There was also reported harassment of Jewish campers in Huntsville.

There were four gatherings of League of the South and the National Socialist Movement, in Wetumpka and Berry, and a “flash demonstration” on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma.

This publication also made the list, with a Facebook direct message from someone in Huntsville expressing support of BDS and boycotting “all known jewish businesses nationwide,” calling Jews traitors and stating “IsraHell = No Right to Exist.”

In Louisiana, the most visible incident was anti-Semitic graffiti that was spray-painted on Northshore Jewish Congregation. There were also seven headstones vandalized at a Jewish cemetery in Baton Rouge, and vandalism at a Jewish cemetery in Shreveport.

Also in Shreveport, the Daily Stormer Book Club distributed flyers accusing Jews of wanting to confiscate guns.

There was anti-Semitic harassment of Jewish students in Westwego, Baton Rouge and New Orleans, and in December a Jewish woman’s apartment was vandalized with swastikas during Chanukah.

A Jewish club’s bulletin board was defaced to read “Jewish Cult” in New Orleans, and flyers for a white supremacist event in New Orleans featured a swastika.

The only listed incidents in Mississippi were white supremacist flyers in Purvis and Ocean Springs.

Along the Florida panhandle, an individual was called a “cheap Jew” at the beach in Pensacola.

In Arkansas, swastika graffiti was discovered at a high school in Danville, Ark., and in August, a bluegrass musician used Jewish stereotypes during his concert in Little Rock.

Last year “showed us that anti-Semitism is very real and present in Louisiana,” said Aaron Ahlquist, ADL South Central Regional Director in New Orleans. “The tragedies of 2018 impact us all, and we will remain vigilant and stand together against anti-Semitism and all forms of hate. In the face of the what we have experienced, we call upon our leaders to take an active role in calling out and addressing the rising anti-Semitism in our society, and work to put an end to hate.”

“Anti-Semitism is a grave concern across the nation and here at home,” said Atlanta’s ADL Southeast Regional Director Allison Padilla-Goodman. “Whether it be in K-12 schools, on campus or in communities it is disturbing to see the slow normalization of anti-Semitism and its impact here in the Southeast. This is why our on-the-ground programming and advocacy work is so essential to help fight hate before it truly sinks its teeth into a community.”