Reports of antisemitism in N.J. reached record levels in 2021, group says
Members of the Jewish community gather around the JC Kosher Supermarket on December 11, 2019 after a deadly, hours-long gun battle between two armed suspects and police in Jersey City. (Photo by Rick Loomis/Getty Images)
At Princeton University in May 2021, Jewish students were verbally harassed outside an academic building.
Four months later, a Teaneck man smashed the windows of a doctor’s office with a hammer, demanding to know whether patients were Jewish.
And during Hanukkah that year, a sticker with a swastika was found outside a Mount Laurel synagogue.
Those are just three episodes that contributed to a record number of antisemitic incidents in New Jersey in 2021, with 370 total reported, according to an annual audit released by the Anti-Defamation League Tuesday. The figure represents a 25% increase from 2020, and it’s the highest number recorded since the Jewish advocacy group began tracking incidents in 1979 using information from victims and law enforcement.
The report comes just a week after officials charged a 27-year-old man with federal hate crimes after police say he violently assaulted and attempted to kill at least three people in Lakewood because they are Jewish.
Antisemitic incidents have increased nearly annually since 2013, except for a drop in 2020 the Anti-Defamation League attributes to the pandemic. The 2021 data shows a return to pre-pandemic trends, with New Jerseyans experiencing antisemitism through harassment, vandalism, and assault the group called “emblematic of a larger national problem.”
“Jewish communities in New Jersey are dealing with record levels of antisemitism, and ADL is working closely with victims, schools, law enforcement, elected officials, and faith and community leaders to help reverse this trend,” Scott Richman, regional director of the group’s New York/New Jersey office, said in a press release.
Nationally, antisemitic incidents reached an all-time high in 2021, with 2,717 incidents reported. Fourteen percent of those occurred in New Jersey, the second-highest number in any state, the audit says.
Bergen County saw the largest number of antisemitic incidents, with 70 recorded by the Anti-Defamation League. Next was Ocean County with 44 and Middlesex County, 31.
Statewide there were 252 reports of harassment, 112 acts of vandalism and six reported assaults. About a third of the incidents took place in public places. Others were reported at schools, private homes, businesses, and online. Thirty-five included images of a swastika.
“Our ultimate goal is helping to create safe and inclusive school climates to ensure that no student suffers from bias, discrimination or hate, and we look forward to continuing our work with educators in New Jersey to help them combat antisemitism and all forms of hate in our schools,” Richman said.
Antisemitism was also evident across the state’s college campuses, which saw a 17% increase in reports of anti-Jewish bias. Swastikas were drawn on academic buildings and mezuzahs were stolen, the audit says.
Alpha Epsilon Pi, a historically Jewish fraternity at Rutgers-New Brunswick, was egged during a Holocaust remembrance event.
The highest number of antisemitic incidents were reported in May, which the audit attributes to an outbreak of violence between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas. More than 50 incidents were documented in New Jersey that month, about 86% higher than the state’s average monthly totals, the report says.
In Clifton that month owners of a hookah bar displayed a banner with a swastika and a rendering of Israel’s then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with a Hitler-style mustache.
The Anti-Defamation League says it is particularly concerned with the New Jersey European Heritage Association, a Central Jersey-based hate group formed in 2018. Of the 24 extremist-related incidents reported in New Jersey in 2021, half had ties to the group.
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