Last month, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) released its annual Audit of Antisemitic Incidents, which reports that antisemitic incidents throughout the United States grew by 34%. The number of incidents in 2021 – 2,717, more than seven per day – is at the highest level since ADL began tracking antisemitic incidents in 1979.
According to the 2021 Audit, Florida was the state with the fourth highest number of antisemitic incidents. Over the past four years, the number of incidents in Florida has increased by 150%, well above the national average. The three states with more incidents than Florida, in order, were New York, New Jersey and California. These four states accounted for slightly more than 50% of all reported incidents.
The incidents in Florida in 2021 were spread across the state from Key West in the south to Tallahassee and Jacksonville in the north. There were incidents on both the west and east coasts, with the largest concentration in Southeast Florida. Slightly over 20% involved vandalism. Some examples include:
- Swastikas were etched into the entranceway arch to a Jewish cemetery in Sarasota.
- One of the monuments on the Federation campus in Sarasota was vandalized.
- In Melbourne, the words “Kill the Jews” were spray-painted on the road in a residential neighborhood.
- In Miami, a 9/11 memorial was spray-painted with the message “The Jews Did This.”
- In St. Petersburg, The Florida Holocaust Museum was spray-painted with the words “Jews are guilty.”
Harassment incidents, included leafletting and verbal harassment, made up the majority of the incidents in Florida. The Sarasota-Manatee area experienced at least seven incidents of harassment.
One of the significant findings was the increase in the number of violent incidents. In 2021 there were 88 antisemitic assaults with 131 victims. The number of assaults was up 167%, but the number of victims increased a whopping 219% over 2020. Only one incident of assault was in Florida, at the University of Florida in Gainesville, where a group of Jewish students were assaulted with a BB gun when exiting Hillel.
The year 2021 also saw substantial growth in the number of incidents based upon anti-Zionism or anti-Israel attitudes. Those incidents spiked in the month of May during Israel’s conflict with Hamas in Gaza. Some examples include:
- In Los Angeles, a pro-Palestinian caravan stopped near a restaurant in the trendy Beverly Grove shopping and dining area. According to witnesses, people in the caravan threw bottles and chanted “death to Jews” and “free Palestine.” A video of the event shows several men leaping from the vehicles and charging the diners. Two of the perpetrators were charged with a hate crime.
- In New York, a Jewish accountant wearing a yarmulke was walking to a rally in support of Israel when he was attacked by several men who knocked him to the ground and kicked and punched him while shouting antisemitic remarks. He was maced and pepper-sprayed, and he ended up with a concussion. The perpetrators were charged with a hate crime.
- In New York on the same day, a firework was flung from a truck full of Palestinian flag-waving protestors, landing near a 55-year-old woman who was burned.
According to the FBI, approximately 60% of religious hate crimes are anti-Jewish year after year. In terms of raw numbers, Jews are second only to African Americans in the number of hate crimes perpetrated against them. On a per capita basis, Jews are the most targeted group for hate crimes in the U.S. according to Honest Reporting.
The Florida Attorney General’s annual report on hate crimes shows that 22 of 26 religious hate crimes in Florida in 2020 were against Jews.
There has been no letup in 2022. In January, members of the neo-Nazi National Socialist Movement and the antisemitic Goyim Defense League held a roadside event in Orlando. They held antisemitic signs and chanted “No more Jews” and “White power” while giving Hitler salutes. Three participants who assaulted a Jewish passerby were arrested and charged with a hate crime. Here in Sarasota, there have been multiple incidents of antisemitic leafletting.
What can you do as an individual?
- Report antisemitic bias or discriminatory incidents to Federation (firstname.lastname@example.org) and the Anti-Defamation League (adl.org/reportincident).
- Urge your Florida and federal legislators to make significant investments in securing our synagogues and Jewish schools.
- Learn more about antisemitism and extremism.
- Understand the common myths behind antisemitism.
What is Federation doing?
- Federation’s Security Director, Tom Baugher, assists Jewish community institutions with security and works with area police authorities on both preventing and dealing with antisemitic incidents.
- The Heller Community Relations Committee (CRC) has provided training on antisemitism to every police officer in the Sarasota Police Department and is exploring working with other law enforcement officials in Sarasota and Manatee counties.
- The CRC has made presentations to both Jewish and non-Jewish community groups about antisemitism and is available to do so for other interested groups. Contact either Lindsey Mintz, Federation Director of Community Engagement (email@example.com), or me (CRCchair@jfedsrq.org) if you would like to learn about scheduling a program for your organization.
- We write and publish the CRConnect column each month to provide information about antisemitism and to dispel myths and provide support for Israel.
As part of its charter, the CRC works to support Israel and fight antisemitism. If you have any questions, comments or suggestions or are interested in the CRC, please contact me at CRCchair@jfedsrq.org.