Although there were fewer anti-Semitic incidents reported in Massachusetts last year compared to 2017, the numbers remain high and assaults against Jews are on the rise, according to a new report from the Anti-Defamation League.
The ADL Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents, which was released Tuesday, says 2018 was the second-highest year on record for anti-Semitic incidents in Massachusetts. There were 177 in 2017.
Fifty-eight cities and towns in Massachusetts reported at least one anti-Semitic incident last year, and Massachusetts had the fourth-highest number of incidents per state in the country (144), following California (341); New York (340), and New Jersey (200), according to an ADL statement.
“People across Massachusetts continue to experience anti-Semitism at historically high rates,” ADL New England regional director Robert Trestan said in the statement. “Every incident sends a message of hate to the entire community. After years of hate becoming normalized, bigots are turning their anti-Semitism into action through violence.”
The total number of anti-Semitic incidents reported in Massachusetts last year was a 19 percent decrease compared with 2017, according to the statement. Despite the dip in number, officials said the number of incidents remains high.
“While overall incidents decreased, the numbers are still historically high and are of deep concern,” ADL officials said. “In comparison, there were 50 anti-Semitic incidents in 2015, and 125 incidents in 2016.”
The 2018 incidents in Massachusetts included 82 acts of vandalism, 59 reports of harassment, and three assaults against Jews.
ADL officials said there were no assaults against Jews in Massachusetts recorded in 2017, and the increase in 2018 reflects a national trend of rising anti-Semitic assaults.
“This dramatic increase in anti-Semitic assaults is particularly concerning because it indicates perpetrators feel emboldened to cross over from acts of harassment and vandalism into violence,” officials said in the statement.
ADL officials said the incidents in Massachusetts last year occurred in a variety of locations, including Jewish institutions and schools (11); non-Jewish K-12 schools (59); college campuses (20); parks, streets, public transit, public buildings (21); private businesses and retail establishments (11); and homes (15).
Jack McDevitt, director of the Institute on Race and Justice at Northeastern University, said the audit has been “an incredibly valuable resource for researchers and policymakers” since 1979.
“The increased number of anti-Semitic incidents tied to extremist groups is deeply troubling and should be addressed immediately by police and prosecutors,” McDevitt said in the statement.
Trestan said the ADL is expanding law enforcement and community training programs to raise awareness of best practices in responding to hate crimes. The organization is also increasing its education programs for schools.
“We all need to speak up and take action against hate – it is our best hope for the future,” he said.