Graffiti on the wall of Manny's, a Jewish-owned business in San Francisco's Mission District, June 6, 2021. (Photo/Steven Buss)
Graffiti on the wall of Manny's, a Jewish-owned business in San Francisco's Mission District, June 6, 2021. (Photo/Steven Buss)

State report: Antisemitic hate crimes in California at highest level in a decade

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Reported hate crimes in California surged last year, reaching their highest level since “skyrocket[ing]” after 9/11, the state’s attorney general office announced this week.

Data compiled by AG Rob Bonta’s office, released Tuesday, shows hate crimes reported to the state Department of Justice increased 32.6 percent from 2020, to 1,763 incidents in 2021.

Anti-Jewish hate crimes rose precipitously, reaching their highest level at least since 2012, the first year for which data is available. That year saw 91 anti-Jewish crimes tallied. Since then anti-Jewish crimes have risen steadily, reaching a then-high of 141 in 2019. They fell slightly in 2020, then rose again by 32.2 percent last year, with 152 total incidents.

Antisemitic hate crimes account for the overwhelming majority of reported bias crimes targeting members of a specific religion. The second most were aimed at Muslims (18) followed by Catholics (16).

Anti-Black hate crimes also rose 12.5 percent last year, the report showed, and were the most common, with 513 incidents. Reported crimes targeting Asians soared by 177.5 percent, to 247. Anti-Hispanic and anti-LGBTQ crimes also increased, while crimes targeting someone for their gender expression declined.

The Anti-Defamation League, which also tabulated a sharp increase in antisemitic incidents last year, attributed the spike partly to an explosion of anti-Jewish incidents during the Israel-Gaza war last May. ADL spokesperson Aryeh Tuchman called the data “shocking.”

In the Bay Area, the Jewish community saw multiple incidents of antisemitic vandalism last year, some linked to the Gaza war, and some not.

In the midst of the fighting, a vandal scrawled “death to Israel” outside a Chabad preschool. And a popular cafe in the Mission District, owned by a Jew with ties to Israel, was vandalized with “Zionist pigz” and “Racist pigz” in bright blue paint.

Following the appearance of anti-Israel graffiti at Gan Noe Preschool, the children decorated a banner offering Shabbat greetings to the neighborhood.
Following the appearance of anti-Israel graffiti at this San Francisco Chabad preschool, the children decorated a banner offering Shabbat greetings to the neighborhood.

Also last year, a messianic synagogue in Carmichael was papered with flyers saying “Hitler was right” — the perpetrator, then 34-year-old Nicholas Sherman, was arrested and convicted for desecrating a religious symbol. In Berkeley, a man tore a mezuzah off of the door of a Chabad center.

Under California law, a hate crime is a “criminal act committed in whole or in part because of a victim’s actual or perceived disability, gender, nationality, race or ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation,” or their association with someone who has, or is perceived to have, those characteristics.

In general, a relatively low number of hate crimes reported to law enforcement are ultimately prosecuted and the perpetrators convicted, according to the report, “Hate Crime in California,” which is released annually. Last year the AG’s office recorded just 285 prosecutions filed. Of them 65 resulted in convictions (some cases initially considered hate crimes led to convictions on other charges, like vandalism or assault without a bias component).

Bonta reiterated his office’s commitment to combating hate crimes in a statement alongside the report, highlighting the pandemic’s effect on bias incidents.

“Today’s report undeniably shows that the epidemic of hate we saw spurred on during the pandemic remains a clear and present threat,” he said. “In fact, reported hate crime has reached a level we haven’t seen in California since the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11.

“As our state’s top law enforcement officer, I will continue to use the full authority of my office to fight back,” Bonta said. “We will keep working with our local law enforcement partners and community organizations to make sure every Californian feels seen, heard, and protected. While there is no single solution, it’s up to all of us to heed the call, because when our communities feel empowered, they come forward.”

Gabe Stutman
Gabe Stutman

Gabe Stutman is the news editor of J. Follow him on Twitter @jnewsgabe.