A new report from the Anti-Defamation League has found that the number of anti-Semitic incidents in the U.S. spiked in 2017, increasing by an unprecedented 57 percent from the year before.
The ADL report cited 1,986 incidents of harassment, threats, and vandalism targeting Jews in the country. It was the most dramatic increase since the organization started tracking these incidents in the 1970s and the second-highest number on the record.
According to the ADL, this increase resulted in part from a near doubling of incidents on schools and college campuses. The results may also have been influenced in part by more widespread reporting. But the report also specifically cited the white supremacist Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, and it noted a “rising climate of incivility, the emboldening of hate groups, and widening divisions in society.”
The rise in incidents took the form of vandalism and harassment, including 163 bomb threats against Jewish institutions. (Physical assaults against Jews actually fell, according to the report.) Two people were arrested in 2017 for repeated bomb threats. One, an Israeli American teenager, was arrested in March for making more than 150 of those threats to Jewish community centers and other Jewish institutions. “[R]egardless of the motivation of any specific perpetrator, Jewish communities were repeatedly traumatized by these assaults on their institutions and threats to their safety,” the ADL wrote in the report. “The bomb threats sowed fear and anxiety among Jews across the country.”
Most of these bomb threats, as well as incidents of cemetery desecration, occurred during the first few months of the year, the report found. “This contributed to a sense among Jews across the country of being under siege,” the report said.
As the ADL wrote in a statement released after the Charlottesville rally, “white supremacists feel emboldened by the current political climate.” While in the statement he did not explicitly state why these extremist groups feel emboldened, Jonathan Greenblatt, the CEO of the ADL, did scold Trump for his inaction, asking for a “clear denunciation and plan of action” for combating violent extremism. Trump memorably waited days to denounce the extremists in Charlottesville even after one person was killed, instead blaming the violence “on many sides.”
The president defended himself as “the least anti-Semitic person that you’ve ever seen in your entire life” after being confronted by the uptick of anti-Semitic threats in February 2017. The day before that assertion, he bolstered his anti-Semitic bona fides by arguing, eloquently, “as far as people, Jewish people—so many friends, a daughter who happens to be here right now. A son-in-law, and three beautiful grandchildren.”
Trump has also come under criticism for retweeting white supremacist and anti-Semitic accounts, using anti-Semitic imagery in social media, and failing to mention Jews on the first Holocaust Remembrance Day of his presidency.