The news about anti-Semitism

Anti-Semitism is never good news.

But it is good news that the number of reported anti-Semitic incidents has declined for a third consecutive year nationwide.

According to the Anti-Defamation League's annual report, 1,571 incidents were reported by 43 states and the District of Columbia in 1997. That represents nearly a 9 percent decline from 1996.

Jarring as each individual case may be, in a country of some 250 million, 1,500 incidents marks a noticeably low number.

Citing increased federal and state hate-crimes statutes and a national initiative to combat such crimes, ADL officials say the downward trend foretells a time when such crimes will cease.

But despite a growing public awareness of hate crimes, it seems doubtful we will see such a time.

For some, hate is as natural an expression as love. They view those who are different with suspicion and aversion. And some express their contempt through acts of aggression and violence.

In a democratic society, hateful sentiments will always find expression. Many groups dedicated to promoting racist views still thrive. In addition to mass mailings of propaganda, those groups have found in the Internet an easy vehicle for their hate.

The best chance to stem anti-Semitism and other forms of hatred is education that roots out prejudice before it has the chance to grow. Programs that teach the value of diversity and demystify the "other" are key to that effort.

We, as a Jewish community, have a stake in promoting and supporting such educational efforts. As we do so, we hope anti-Semitism — as well as hated against African-Americans, gays and lesbians and other minorities — will continue to decline.