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ADL audit finds anti-Semitic incidents declined in 2020 but remained at historic levels

Pat Greenhouse/Globe Staff/file

Reports of anti-Semitic incidents in Massachusetts declined in 2020, but they remained at historically high levels, with 73 cases of harassment, assault, and vandalism across the state, according to the Anti-Defamation League.

That number marks a 36 percent decline from the 114 comparable incidents reported in 2019, according to the report released Tuesday, the second anniversary of a shooting at a synagogue in Poway, Calif., that killed one woman and injured three others, including the rabbi who was leading a service.

Across New England, there were 109 reported anti-Semitic incidents last year, a drop of 23 percent from the previous year, according to the ADL, which works to stop discrimination against Jewish people.


“Despite the decline, the overall number of antisemitic incidents tracked by ADL remains historically high,” Robert Trestan, New England regional director for the ADL, said in a statement. “Even against a backdrop of pandemic related restrictions, hate found a way to rear its ugly head in communities across our region moving from the streets to online. Particularly disturbing was the phenomenon of ‘Zoombombing’ targeting schools and Jewish institutions.”

The ADL found 11 anti-Semitic videoconferencing attacks in Massachusetts last year, mostly targeting K-12 schools and Jewish institutions, including religious and funeral services, according to the report.

Nationwide, there were 1,242 incidents of anti-Semitic harassment reported in 2020, an increase of 10 percent from the previous year, according to the ADL. But reports of vandalism declined by 18 percent, alleged assaults dropped by 49 percent, and there were no fatalities reported.

Massachusetts had the nation’s sixth-largest total of reported incidents, behind New York, New Jersey, California, Florida, and Pennsylvania.

Forty Massachusetts communities reported at least one anti-Semitic incident, including the attempted firebombing of a Jewish-sponsored assisted living facility in Longmeadow, the vandalism of the Chabad Center in Brookline, and harassment of parents and children outside a Jewish day camp in Worcester.


There were eight incidents reported on Massachusetts college campuses, down from 13 in 2019, and 18 incidents in public areas, down from 24.

Jewish people, along with Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, and other groups, have been scapegoated for the global COVID-19 pandemic, according to the report. Trestan cautioned that as the pandemic subsides and “life begins to return to normal, we must remember that antisemitism does not live in a vacuum.”

“Where there is hatred of one group, there is often hatred of others,” he said. “The alarming and violent manifestations of racism targeting the AAPI and Black communities, in addition to high levels of antisemitism, are stark reminders that we must remain hyper vigilant in 2021 to combat hate in all its forms.”

Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at Follow him @jeremycfox.