Anti-Semitic acts decline nationwide, up a bit here

The 45 total incidents last year contrast to 41 in 1996.

Even with with regional increase, the state overall still showed a small decline in incidents — to 180 last year from 186 in 1996.

Incidents also dropped in the nation as a whole.

"I wish Northern California hadn't gone up a blip. But I'm just generally happy that on a national level things are good," said Abbie Wolf, associate director of the ADL's Central Pacific office located in San Francisco.

Nationally, anti-Semitic incidents dropped to 1,571 in 1997 from 1,722 in the previous year — a 9 percent decrease. It was the third year in a row to show a decline, now amounting to a 31 percent drop since 1994's all-time high of 2,066 incidents.

"It's very good news," Wolf said of the latest statistics.

"I do understand there is always a need for caution and to understand that a dip is not a reason to start feeling comfortable and smug. But I look at it as a very positive sign."

The only glitch on the national level was a 15 percent increase from the previous year in incidents on college campuses. Nationally, campuses reported 104 anti-Semitic acts last year, as well as the two regional incidents left out of the national report.

Altogether, eight incidents took place on six Northern California campuses.

The region's 45 incidents include:

*A San Francisco upholsterer told a customer, "All you Jews should have burned in Auschwitz…Hitler should have finished the job."

*About two dozen Ku Klux Klan supporters held a rally at Fresno State University in November. It was in response to an FSU professor who dared the Klan to hold a rally. A much larger anti-Klan rally also took place.

*Several Bay Area residents were paged and found they were calling a Holocaust-denial "hotline" when they returned the page.

*A four-foot swastika was painted on Diablo Valley College's theater in March. Anti-Semitic fliers were also left on windshields and in faculty mailboxes. The fliers came from the Church of the Creator, a religion that preaches white supremacy.

*A 12-year-old girl at a Fresno school was called a "a gay Jew b—h." The offender was suspended.

*A banner at San Francisco State University was hung in April calling for the death of Peru's president and his "Zionist commandos." The sign also included an Israeli flag with a swastika.

*Khalid Muhammad delivered a fiery speech at S.F. State in May. Muhammad, a former aide to Nation of Islam's Louis Farrakhan, referred to "hook-nosed, bagel-eating, lox-eating, perpetrating-a-fraud so-called Jews" who control Hollywood, the media and the Federal Reserve. About 400 people attended.

In Wolf's eyes, the Muhammad speech was the region's worst incident in 1997.

"It was so egregious and so markedly anti-Jewish. I looked over his speech again…You couldn't read one paragraph in which his thoughts didn't swing around to blaming Jews for everything from slavery to the spread of AIDS among African Americans in this country," she said.

Still, Wolf saw glimmers of positive change in this region. About 20 campus newspapers across the country printed Holocaust-denial ads. But, she said, campus newspaper editors at Stanford, U.C. Berkeley and S.F. State declined to run such ads.

"I was thrilled. Maybe I was a little surprised, but I was thrilled," Wolf said.

As for why anti-Semitism appears to be declining nationally, Wolf said she didn't have any concrete answers.

Perhaps, she said, it's due to the growth of human relations commissions in small towns and of diversity task forces in high schools. Or maybe it's due to an overall growing awareness of the impact of hatred.

"It's very hard to explain why incidents go down," she said.

The 1,571 nationwide incidents included 673 acts of vandalism and 898 incidents of harassment, threat or assault. Police made arrests in 78 of the incidents.

Among the worst ones in the nation:

*A 15-year-old Jewish boy was stabbed in May by a classmate in a Smithtown, N.Y., high school. The alleged assailant shouted, "I hate Jews" during the attack. He is being tried.

*A Baltimore radio host referred to the alleged murder of a local youth by a Jewish friend, Samuel Sheinbein, as a "ritualistic killing in honor of Rosh Hashanah."

*An elderly man in Los Angeles was called a "f—–g Jew" and was pushed to the ground. He suffered a broken hip.

*An Atlanta synagogue was spray-painted with "Die Pig Jew! Heil Hitler."

*Fourteen Jewish cemeteries were defaced. A coffin in a N.Y. mausoleum was set afire.

*A bomb exploded in the parking lot of a JCC on Mercer Island, Wash., in March while parents were picking up their children. No one was injured.

*An incendiary device put under a window at a Philadelphia Jewish day school in May blew a hole in the wall and broke a windowpane. No one was hurt.