Hate Crime

Cases of anti-Semitism increased last year, report says

FILE - In this Monday, Feb. 27, 2017 file photo,toppled and damaged headstones rest on the ground at Mount Carmel Cemetery in Philadelphia.

FILE - In this Monday, Feb. 27, 2017 file photo,toppled and damaged headstones rest on the ground at Mount Carmel Cemetery in Philadelphia.  (AP)

Cases of anti-Semitic intimidation and vandalism increased last year, according to data released by the Anti-Defamation League Monday.

The group found 1,266 cases of anti-Semitic harassment last year, compared to 941 in 2015 and 912 in 2014. The sharp increase continued into the first three months of 2017, with reports of 541 incidents compared to 291 in the same period just last year.

The early 2017 numbers include a wave of more than 150 bomb threats that started in January against Jewish community centers and day schools. The ADL insists those threats should still be considered anti-Semitic since Jews were the target. During the same period, a former journalist in St. Louis was also charged with threatening Jewish organizations as part of a bizarre campaign to intimidate his former girlfriend. However, authorities believe an Israel hacker was primarily responsible for the harassment.

Even without those bomb threats, the number of anti-Jewish incidents this January, February and March in the report would be higher than the year before.

The ADL report linked 34 cases last year to the presidential election, including graffiti found in Denver last May that said “Kill the Jews, Vote Trump.” On college campuses last year, the number of reports of anti-Semitic incidents remained about the same compared to the previous year, the ADL said. Many of the schools have been roiled in recent years by protests over Israeli policies toward Palestinians.

The ADL tally includes a much broader array of incidents, such as distribution of hateful materials, threats, slurs, intimidation and vandalism, along with physical assaults. The organization said its researchers evaluate reports from individuals, community leaders and law enforcement.

This latest compilation includes only a few cases of online harassment — incidents that led to "on the ground" intimidation — so that the organization can continue making year-to-year comparisons of ADL data going back to the group's first report in 1979, before the internet and social media were so broadly used, according to Oren Segal, director of the ADL Center on Extremism.

Anti-Semitic harassment in the U.S. has been at historic lows in recent years, according to the organization. In some prior years, the number of incidents surpassed 1,500 or 2,000, Segal said. But the recent uptick has fueled anxiety among American Jews during a period of emboldened expressions of white-supremacism and white-nationalism during the presidential election.

"I think the pace in which the incidents are happening, the speed at which the spike is occurring, I think the historic low is a thing of the past," Segal said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.