Anti-Semitism surging in U.S. Better believe it

Anti-Semitism — it’s always on the rise. That’s the view of some in the Jewish community, who refuse to become alarmed at statistics showing the number of assaults, attacks and acts of harassment against Jews each year. It’s not quite that bad, they seem to be thinking. Wishful thinking, perhaps.

The Anti-Defamation League just released its annual “Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents” in this country. The bottom line shows a total of 912 assaults, threats, events and acts of harassment, hacking and vandalism in 2014. That is a 21 percent increase over the 751 incidents in 2013.

Some of those incidents were shockingly violent. A lethal shooting at Jewish community buildings in Kansas; assault and battery in Los Angeles and New York. Others were chillingly threatening, such as synagogues and campus dorms tagged with swastikas or protesters shouting “Jews and Nazis are the same; the only difference is the name.”

The ADL report notes that last summer’s war between Israel and Hamas sparked an uptick in anti-Semitic incidents. The same occurred in many cities in Europe, though the violence there was markedly worse. The European anti-Jewish violence also has an effect in this country, as well as in the Bay Area. Last May, the FBI investigated anti-Semitic graffiti scrawled on a synagogue sign in San Francisco, including the words “death to the Jews,” written — misspelled, really — in French. One local ADL official surmised the graffiti was inspired by that week’s murder of four Jews at a Jewish museum in Brussels, which is French-speaking.

Our worry is not just that such incidents occur. They always have, and in fact, as the ADL’s executive director Abraham Foxman noted, the overall numbers in the United States remain at historic lows.

What concerns us just as much is the gradual mainstreaming of anti-Jewish and anti-Israel sentiment, which fosters a climate that is susceptible to anti-Semitism and fosters anti-Jewish actions.

Just this week, Foxman told a gathering of educators that a new survey shows one-third of Americans believe Jews are responsible for killing Jesus. The same number said they believe Jews are more loyal to Israel than America. It’s incredible that such misguided and dangerous opinions persist, and frightening to contemplate what they imply.

As we gather around the seder table this week to celebrate our many freedoms — often taken for granted in the United States — we also must take the long view and remember that freedom does not come with a lifetime guarantee. We must remain vigilant and call out anti-Semitism whenever and wherever it appears.

We wish our readers and their families a joyous Passover.