Chabad of Oakland's menorah at Lake Merritt on Dec. 10, 2023 (right), two days before it was vandalized, pulled down and thrown in the lake (left). (Courtesy Chabad of Oakland)
Chabad of Oakland's menorah at Lake Merritt on Dec. 10, 2023 (right), two days before it was vandalized, pulled down and thrown in the lake (left). (Courtesy Chabad of Oakland)

Report: Anti-Jewish hate crimes in California rose at ‘alarming’ rate last year

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Hate crimes targeting Jews rose sharply last year in California, despite a drop in hate crimes overall, according to the state’s annual report released Monday.

”Hate Crime in California 2023,” issued by the state Department of Justice, showed that hate crime events of all kinds decreased 7.1%, from 2,120 in 2022 to 1,970 last year.  

But hate crimes motivated by religious bias jumped from 303 to 394, a 30% rise in the same time period. Crimes motivated specifically by anti-Jewish bias accounted for most of that increase, rising from 189 to 289, a 53% jump from 2022 to 2023.

Anti-Jewish crimes accounted for 73% of all hate crimes tied to religious bias last year in California.

Anti-Muslim hate crimes also rose — from 25 in 2022 to 40 last year.

Marc Levine, director of the San Francisco-based Anti-Defamation League’s Central Pacific Region, calls the increase in anti-Jewish hate crime “significant” and “alarming.”

“We talk about hateful rhetoric leading to hateful acts, and this report shows that happening,” Levine told J.

We talk about hateful rhetoric leading to hateful acts, and this report shows that happening.

Marc Levine, ADL regional director

The ADL’s own report, the Audit of Antisemitic Incidents 2023, shows a similar trend, Levine said. The ADL numbers are higher, indicating a 140% increase nationwide over 2022, but that’s because the ADL includes incidents that don’t reach the level of a crime, such as insulting someone with a hateful name. 

“If you see someone wearing a yarmulke and call them a dirty Jew, we count that. But it’s not a hate crime” that can be prosecuted, Levine said.

Within the state, Northern California showed a 202% increase in antisemitic incidents in 2023 over the previous year, according to the ADL. California had the largest number of such incidents in the country, followed by New York.

California’s annual report collects data on hate crimes reported by law enforcement agencies. The report defines a hate crime as a criminal offense against a person or property motivated in part or wholly by an offender’s bias against a race, ethnicity, religion, disability, sexual orientation, gender or gender identity. (The definition of a hate crime event is somewhat technical but references a single occurrence that can include multiple offenses, victims or perpetrators.)

The report’s introduction cautions against a strict comparison between 2022 and 2023 because 18 counties were unable to complete their 2023 count, including Santa Clara, Santa Cruz and Solano. But the trends are unmistakable, said Levine.

Asked about the risk of causing alarm within the Jewish community — particularly after Oct. 7 — by highlighting trends from the report, Levine responded that it’s valuable to pay attention. 

“It’s important to understand trends,” Levine said. “Rising hate is an important marker of our society’s health.”

Such reports also help organizations like the ADL figure out new ways to combat antisemitism, he noted.

Levine stands speaking before fellow legislators
Marc Levine, then a member of the State Assembly and chair of the California Legislative Jewish Caucus, speaks at the state capitol in 2016.

“It helps us think of interventions that are appropriate, whether addressing criminal behavior or educational opportunities or ways of intervening so people know that hateful acts against Jews are against the values our society upholds,” Levine said.

The information is likewise used to develop and implement state policies, said state Sen. Josh Becker, who represents San Mateo County and part of Santa Clara County and is vice chair of the California Legislative Jewish Caucus.

Last year’s state report, which showed that Jews were victims of the majority of religion-based hate crimes in 2022, helped the Jewish caucus push through $80 million more in security grants for houses of worship and community centers, Becker told J.

“We’d already been active for years finding ways to protect our Jewish community in California,” he said. “The caucus has a number of priority bills that are moving forward, and this report reinforces the need.”

Those bills include AB 2918, which would strengthen guardrails and transparency for the state’s long-awaited ethnic studies model curriculum “so our students will receive an education that doesn’t include hate or bigotry,” he said. The bill had its first Senate committee hearing this week.

AB 2925 would require diversity, equity and inclusion training on college campuses to include information about discrimination against the top five groups most likely to be targets of hate, “which clearly includes the Jewish community,” he said.

Other pending legislation includes SB 1277, which would bring the Teachers Collaborative for Holocaust and Genocide Education into the state Department of Education as a professional development program; SB 1287, which would protect students by requiring colleges to implement codes of conduct to prevent harassment or violence against students based on race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, or disabilities; and AB 3024, the Stop Hate Littering Act, which seeks to prevent the distribution of hateful flyers, posters or symbols targeting vulnerable communities.

Both the ADL and the state report for 2023 saw a spike in anti-Jewish hate after Oct. 7. Becker predicts more of the same. 

“Hate crimes against Jews have gone up dramatically since Oct. 7,” he said, “so I expect to see continued elevated levels of antisemitism.” 

Sue Fishkoff

Sue Fishkoff is the editor emerita of J. She can be reached at [email protected].