California Leads in Reported Anti-Semitic Incidents Nationwide

California among the top four states with highest amount of reported anti-Semitic incidents

By Ashley Gordon
|  Thursday, Oct 13, 2011  |  Updated 8:39 AM PDT
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Members of the Anti-Defamation League say they're surprised by the number of anti-Semitic incidents reported in schools.

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Anti-Semitic incidents surged in California in 2010, making it the worst offender nationwide, according to the Anti-Defamation League.

While the audit found a 2.3 percent increase in incidents over 2009 throughout the states, California incidents rose by 8 percent, from 275 to 297, according to the league's annual Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents.

Many of the recorded occurrences were concentrated in Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernardino and Kern counties.

“Honestly, one of the things we do see in terms of trends is a lot of, surprising number of incidents happening in schools and even elementary schools,” said Amanda Susskind, the regional director for the Anti-Defamation League’s Los Angeles Office. “We are kind of surprised about that.”

Rabbi Suzanne Singer of Riverside County’s Temple Beth El elaborated on anti-Semitism in schools.

“In the schools, apparently the kids get so-called jokes said about Jews,” Singer said. “One is, what is the difference between a pizza and a Jew?"

A pizza doesn’t scream when you put it in the oven, said Singer. "That is a hideous joke," she promptly added.

“Some kids say they’ve gotten kids doing the Hitler salute,” she added. The Jewish kids tend to not publicize that they are Jewish.

The ADL uses the annual report as an opportunity to bring awareness to resources available nationwide promoting positive human relations.

“We are actually able to come into schools and provide anti-bias training,” Susskind said. “We are happy to be brought into schools to address problems that may be happening.”

One out of five of all hate crimes and 88 percent of hate crimes targeting religious groups in Los Angeles County are anti-Jewish related, according to the Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relation’s 2009 Hate Crime Report.

The Jewish community has always been one the largest targets of hate crimes in Los Angeles County, said Robin Toma, the executive director for Los Angeles County’s Human Relations Commission.

“The good thing about anti-Jewish crimes, if there is one, is that there is a lower rate of violent crimes,” Toma added.

The ADL audit reported 220 claims of harassment, 71 for vandalism and six assaults in California in 2010.

If people develop a greater awareness of hate crimes and become more comfortable with talking to first responders, they are more likely to report these crimes, said Det. Christopher Keeling of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

“We want the report. We encourage the report. If we don’t get the report, we can’t combat it,” said Keeling, who also participates in the Sheriff’s Department’s Hate Crimes Task Force.

“We need to educate people a lot more about diversity. I think there is not enough understanding of other people’s beliefs," Singer said.

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