Last September, a 23-year-old Teaneck man went on a rampage, smashing the glass front door and receptionist’s window of a pediatrician’s office on Palisades Avenue, demanding to know if any of the patients were Jewish, according to the police.
He was charged with aggravated assault and possession of a weapon and police took him to hospital for psychiatric evaluation.
It was one of hundreds of alleged anti-Semitic incidents reported in the past year. A new study released Tuesday by the Anti-Defamation League reported that the total number of anti-Semitic incidents in the state rose 25% last year, reaching 370 – the most ever recorded by the ADL in the New Jersey since it began tracking this data in 1979.
Anti-Semitic incidents were reported in 19 of New Jersey’s 21 counties in 2021, according to the ADL, with the highest number in Bergen County — where 70 such incidents were recorded — and East County. Ocean, with 44.
“Jewish communities in New Jersey are facing record levels of anti-Semitism,” said Scott Richman, regional director of the ADL’s New York/New Jersey office that serves northern and central New Jersey, noting the dramatic increase in incidents.
It was a trend highlighted last week when a 27-year-old New Jersey man was charged with federal hate crimes after he was accused of carrying out a series of violent attacks on Orthodox Jews in Lakewood.
Police say Dion Marsh of Manchester allegedly hijacked a Toyota, hit two pedestrians with it and stabbed a man in the chest – all because they were Jewish. “It had to be done,” he said in a taped interview with detectives. “These are the real devils.”
Statewide in 2021, there were 252 instances of harassment, 112 reports of vandalism, and 6 suspected assaults. At least 7 Jewish institutions were vandalized with the display of a swastika, the ADL audit found.
Meanwhile, nationally, anti-Semitic incidents in the United States have also reached an all-time high, with 2,717 incidents in 2021.
This represented a 34% increase from 2020 and a 29% increase from the previous all-time high in 2019, when 2,107 incidents were reported. ADL officials attributed last year’s numbers to a return to pre-pandemic trends. At the same time, they said a substantial increase was seen during the May 2021 conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.
A similar month-long push unfolded in Garden State. There were 56 documented incidents in New Jersey in May, which ADL officials said was 86% higher than the state’s average monthly totals. Six involved propaganda from white supremacist groups that incorporated anti-Israel and anti-Semitic statements.
Jonathan Greenblatt, ADL CEO and Country Director, said that while there is often an increase in anti-Semitic activity during times of heightened hostilities in Israel, the violence that country witnessed last May was “ shocking”.
“Jews were being attacked in the streets just because they were Jewish, and it seemed like the working assumption was that if you were Jewish, you were to blame for what was happening on the other side of the world” , did he declare. .
Here in New Jersey, about a third of all recorded anti-Semitic incidents in the state have taken place in public places, according to the ADL. Another 82 were held in non-Jewish K-12 schools and 44 in Jewish institutions. Online, there were 5 “Zoom-bombings”, which disrupted virtual Shabbat and major holiday services and a ritual mourning service that was taking place on Zoom during the pandemic.
While 44 of the reported incidents in the state took place at Jewish institutions, Alex Rosemberg, the ADL’s deputy regional director for New York and New Jersey, said “the reality is that it’s all over.”
There were also more incidents last year on college campuses, the ADL said. In New Jersey, ADL recorded 16 anti-Semitic incidents on college and university campuses, representing a 45% increase from the 11 incidents recorded in 2020.
He cited a case involving “visibly Jewish” students at Princeton University “verbally harassed with anti-Semitic rhetoric outside a university building.”
Five incidents of anti-Semitic vandalism on college campuses across the state were also reported last year, including swastikas drawn on college and residential buildings and stolen mezuzahs.
At Rutgers University, someone threw eggs at the Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity house during a New Brunswick Holocaust memorial event last April, just steps from the College Avenue campus , during the annual 24-hour reading of the names of Holocaust victims, university officials reported. .
Richman said one cannot cite a single factor for the increase in anti-Semitic rhetoric, threats and violence. The COVID pandemic, economic and world events were all part of the equation, as was social media, which he called a “huge engine of hate” towards many groups.
“In the past, if someone wanted to spread these ideas, they needed a platform. Today you don’t need a platform. There are thousands of platforms,” he noted. At the same time, he said society has become increasingly polarized.
“The extremists have been emboldened,” he said.
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