Bonta, a middle-aged Latino man in a suit, stands speaking at a podium outdoors.
California Attorney General Rob Bonta was among several elected officials who spoke out against antisemitism at the Jewish Community Relations Council Bay Area's "Here I Am" event at the Oshman Family JCC in Palo Alto, Sept. 12, 2022. (Photo/Twitter @SFJCRC)

AG’s hate crime report: Jews most targeted religious group in California

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Antisemitic, anti-Black and anti-LGBTQ hate crimes rose for the second year in a row in California and accounted for more than 61% of all reported hate crimes in the state in 2022, according to a report released last week.

Attorney General Rob Bonta said in a statement that the increase among all three groups was “alarming” and “illustrates the need for our communities to join together unified against hate.”

The rise mirrored the overall trend statewide, according to the annual report “Hate Crime in California” issued by the Attorney General’s Office.

Hate crimes targeting individuals for their religion continued to rise, though none more so than crimes against Jews.

From 2021 to 2022, antisemitic hate crimes in the state increased 24.3% to a total of 189. The figure includes crimes such as vandalism and assault, but it does not include hate “incidents,” such as denigrating someone with an insulting name or distributing hateful flyers.

Last year 25 anti-Muslim hate crimes were reported, the second highest number of hate crimes against a religious group.

Overall, 2,120 hate crimes were reported in the state in 2022. That’s an increase of 20.2% over 2021 and more than double the number in 2019 when 1,015 hate crimes were reported.

“This report is a stark reminder that there is still much work to be done to combat hate in our state,” Bonta said. “It takes all of us working together to combat extremism and foster a safe and inclusive environment for all Californians.”

Anti-Black hate crimes rose 27.1% to a total of 652 incidents in 2022, and anti-LGBTQ hate crimes grew 32% to 460.

One of the only bright spots in the report was the sharp decrease in anti-Asian hate crimes — the first decline since 2018. Between 2021 and 2022, anti-Asian hate crimes in the state dropped 43.3% to 140 incidents. The number had risen sharply at the height of the pandemic amid a spate of unprovoked attacks.

The Anti-Defamation League reported in May that California accounted for the second highest number of antisemitic incidents, including noncriminal acts, in the U.S. in 2021 and 2022, surpassed only by New York. Even accounting for the differences in population, the ADL noted that the number of incidents here had risen dramatically.

In the past year, towns and cities across California have faced dozens of incidents of antisemitic flyers distributed by supporters of Goyim TV, also known as the Goyim Defense League, a virulent white supremacist network that originated in Petaluma. Due to the specific nature of the flyer incidents, they are not considered hate crimes, Teresa Drenick, the ADL’s S.F.-based interim regional director, told J. in April.

A hate crime is defined in the California Penal Code as a criminal act committed because of a victim’s actual or perceived disability, gender, nationality, race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation or association with one of those groups.

Last year, hate crime charges were filed in 282 cases, and 53 convictions were handed down.

Simultaneous with the report’s release, Bonta issued a bulletin to all state district attorneys, chiefs of police, sheriffs and law enforcement agencies. The bulletin includes an update on state criminal laws that prohibit hate crimes, penalties for hate-related acts, and guidance on the investigation and prosecution of hate crimes.

“Now, more than ever, it is critical that we stand united — there is no place for hate in California,” Bonta said.

Lillian Ilsley-Greene
Lillian Ilsley-Greene

Lillian Ilsley-Greene was a staff writer at J. from 2022-2023.