ADL’s tally of antisemitic incidents surges in 2023, including in South

Anti-Israel rally in Birmingham on Nov. 19. SJL file.

To the surprise of nobody, the Anti-Defamation League’s 2023 audit of antisemitic incidents shattered all previous records. The audit, released on April 16, counted 8,873 incidents of assault, harassment and vandalism, up 140 percent over the previous record, in 2022.

That does not include the widespread incidents of white supremacist propaganda from groups like Patriot Front and Goyim Defense League, which made their presence known in towns throughout the country. There was also occasional activity by the National Justice Party, and one Klan distribution in Hernando, Miss., in May.

The ADL Southeast region, which includes Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina and Tennessee, experienced 403 incidents in 2023 – a 110 percent increase from the 192 incidents reported in 2022. Georgia had 172 incidents, up from 80 in 2022.

Tennessee’s tally went from 40 to 90, South Carolina increased from 44 to 85, and Alabama had 56, up from 28. In 2021, Alabama had just six incidents.

The South Central office in New Orleans recorded 98 incidents, up 250 percent from the 28 in 2022. Louisiana had 64 incidents, a 357 percent increase from the 14 in 2022. Arkansas went from seven to 25, and Mississippi went from seven to nine.

In the past year, incidents of harassment nationally surged by 184 percent compared to 2022; acts of vandalism rose 69 percent; and physical assaults jumped 45 percent.

In the Southeast, there were two antisemitic assaults, both in Georgia. There were none the year before. Harassment grew 120 percent, including a 78 percent growth in Alabama, from 27 to 48. Vandalism in Alabama grew 700 percent, from one to eight incidents.

“The Southeast is no exception when it comes to the surge in antisemitism we’re seeing across the country,” said Eytan Davidson, ADL Southeast Regional Director. “But knowledge is power. The more we understand about these disturbing trends unfolding in our communities, our workplaces and on our campuses, the more we can do to address and combat this growing problem.”

“The astronomical spike in antisemitic incidents experienced in our region mirrors what is being felt in Jewish communities across the country,” said Lindsay Baach Friedmann, ADL South Central Regional Director. “Jewish communities throughout the South Central region are deeply impacted by the sheer number of incidents experienced in our small towns, however Jewish life continues to thrive against a backdrop of hate and bias exhibited by our neighbors. This 2023 audit shows everyone that antisemitism is a heightened problem for all of us. What we do with this information moving forward, how we confront bigotry and make the world a better place, is a responsibility that belongs to everyone – Jews and non-Jews alike. Especially for Jewish communities of our size, we cannot fight hate alone.”

The states with the highest number of incidents were California (1,266), New York (1,218), New Jersey (830), Florida (463) and Massachusetts (440). Combined, these five states accounted for 48 percent of the total incidents.

Around the South

For most states, harassment skyrocketed following the Oct. 7 Hamas invasion of Israel.

In Louisiana, the year started with a banner on a highway overpass in Shreveport charging that Jews control the media, banks, slavery and the porn industry. On Jan. 11, a Tulane student published an article, “Ye Did Nothing Wrong.”

In Donaldsonville, students reenacted a Nazi concentration camp display, with roles of Jewish prisoners and Nazi guards, at a school event.

A New Orleans synagogue received an email threatening terror attacks on multiple targets, and the congregation in Mandeville received a request from a white supremacist to attend services. A series of bomb threats was received by synagogues on Oct. 7, in Shreveport, Baton Rouge, New Orleans and two in Metairie. Later in the year, Alexandria, Lafayette and Mandeville were also targeted, and someone shot a paintball at the Goldring/Woldenberg Jewish Community Campus in Metairie.

“A Jewish museum” in New Orleans received a flyer advertising Louis Farrakhan interviews, and received a sign-up form under the name “anti-Semite.”

In Metairie, “Jews” was graffitied on a stop sign, and in New Orleans, a swastika and “SS” were graffitied on a sidewalk. In Baton Rouge, a department store employee said “F—ing Jew” to a customer.

A New Orleans high school student was targeted with antisemitic and anti-LGBTQ bullying from a student in a different school.

There were numerous antisemitic incidents involving anti-Israel rallies after Oct. 7, from signs saying “victory to the Palestinian resistance” two days after the Oct. 7 massacre, to “F— the Zionists,” “from the river to the sea,” “Zionism = terrorism,” “globalize the Intifada” and “respect existence or expect resistance.” Hostage posters were also torn down on the Tulane campus, and there was graffiti of a Star of David with dollar signs inside

A speaker at an anti-Israel rally said Israel turns Jews “into pawns of global imperialism.”

At a store in Harvey, someone browsing the Chanukah section of a store had “Free Palestine” and “dirty f—ing Jew” shouted at them.

In Mississippi, there were bomb threats against the synagogues in Tupelo and Columbus in December.

Under Harassment, on Nov. 26, there was an anti-Israel rally in Oxford with the “river to the sea” chant, the only such rally mentioned for the state. In August, high school students in Purvis drew swastikas and made Nazi salutes during class.

Perhaps the busiest day for Alabama was Dec. 16, when synagogues in Auburn, Birmingham, Dothan, Huntsville, Montgomery, Mobile, Selma and Tuscaloosa all received bomb threats. A “messianic” congregation in Baldwin County was also targeted. Many of the congregations had also been targeted on Oct. 5.

Chabad in Birmingham was targeted by a “swatting” hoax in November.

In Mobile, a Dec. 21 rally included chants of “Stop doing what Hitler did to you” and “resistance against occupation is a human right.”

A Birmingham anti-Israel rally on Nov. 19 included “Thinking anti-Zionism is an attack on Judaism is saying denouncing the KKK is an attack on Christianity. You sound dumb.”

Students for Justice in Palestine at the University of Alabama at Birmingham called the Oct. 7 Hamas attack “natural and justified.” On Oct. 25, a student at the University of Alabama at Huntsville reportedly said in class “Jews were genocidal killers and [they] should be taken out and beaten in the street.”

The initiative to provide blue and white mailbox ribbons in Birmingham led to an anonymous email to the Birmingham Jewish Federation asking “Are there any bows being sold for the thousands of innocent Palestinians murdered these last two weeks and the hundreds of thousands over the last several decades, or is my family just animals as always?”

In Cedar Bluff, a Jewish middle school student was harassed by a classmate showing her swastikas and saying “Hitler was right.” Antisemitic graffiti was also found at a restaurant in Auburn and a public restroom in Oneonta.

In addition to Patriot Front, the White Lives Matter movement held a roadside demonstration in Blountsville saying the ADL promotes white genocide, and promoting several anti-Jewish conspiracy theories.

In the Florida panhandle, the most publicized incident was the antisemitic vandalism on Chabad and Temple Beth El in Pensacola, along with other antisemitic graffiti in the area. Four teens were arrested, and Raw Story reported that at least one of the teens is active in a regional neo-Nazi group, the 2119 Blood and Soil Crew.

The Goyim Defense League and Patriot Front also distributed literature during the year, and antisemitic slogans were chanted at Pensacola anti-Israel rallies following Oct. 7.

On Dec. 17, Beth Shalom in Fort Walton received a bomb threat. B’nai Israel in Panama City was also threatened.

In Crestview, an elementary school student was harassed with antisemitic comments at school, and swastika graffiti was on a golf course. There was also a controversy in March when a public official in Milton used the term “Jew you down” to a store owner.