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April 08, 2003

ADL: Antisemitic Incidents Soar in N. California

I found this piece via Kesher Talk, the source of which is Forward and it gives frightening statistics on Anti-Semitism in California
OAKLAND, Calif. — Antisemitic incidents soared 800% in Northern California last year, according to the Anti-Defamation League's annual audit released last week.

Northern California logged only 13 events in 2001 but saw 117 in 2002. Thirty-five occurred in San Francisco; 27 occurred in Alameda County, including Berkeley and Oakland; and 13 occurred in Santa Clara County, including San Jose and much of Silicon Valley. Many of these were verbal — including anonymous phone calls and public taunts — or written, including a blood-libel flier distributed on a college campus and many instances of swastikas and other graffiti. But local Jewish leaders are particularly concerned because 2002 brought a spate of severe physical attacks as well.

In Oakland, arson caused $24,000 in damage to Congregation Beth Jacob, an Orthodox synagogue. In San Francisco, police found unexploded Molotov cocktails on the roof of the Conservative-Reform Congregation Beth Israel-Judea during Passover. In Sacramento, two men asked a pedestrian wearing a yarmulke whether he supported Israel; when he said he did, they came at him with fists and a stun gun, inflicting bruises and a sprained elbow, the audit notes.

Nationwide, the ADL audit showed an 8% increase in antisemitic incidents, from 1,432 incidents in 2001 to 1,559 in 2002. These figures included a 17% increase in harassment such as intimidation, threats and assaults aimed at people or institutions, and a 4% increase in vandalism of Jewish community institutions, synagogues and property.

Northern California's increase in antisemitic incidents, said Jonathan Bernstein, the San Francisco-based director of the ADL's Central Pacific region, can be attributed to the growing acceptance of the kind of attitudes embodied in a sign carried at a university campus demonstration last year that read, "Smash the Jewish state, smash the Jewish race."

"That kind of sums it up right there," he said. "The antisemites who are committing these acts are using Israel's response to terror as an excuse to act on their antisemitism. That kind of incident is responsible for the increase here."

Although fewer than a dozen incidents logged by the ADL actually occurred on Northern California's campuses, Bernstein attributes much of the region's problem to large, sometimes barely-controlled pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel protests last spring at San Francisco State University and the University of California at Berkeley. "If you're out there carrying a sign saying 'No war for Israel' and you're surrounded by tens of thousands of people and no one is objecting to your sign, you might start to feel that 'Hey, I've got a big community out here that supports my sentiment on this,' and it's going to embolden you to go even further," he said. "All kinds of things are being said now that people weren't comfortable saying a few years ago."

Berkeley Hillel's executive director, Adam Weisberg, had a cinder block thrown through his institution's glass front door last March, and a bomb threat left on its answering machine last April.[more]