Anti-Semitic incidents in Washington rose almost sevenfold last year, according to a report by the Anti-Defamation League.
A swastika painted on a school locker used to merit a report to Seattle’s Holocaust Center for Humanity. But amid a spike in anti-Semitic incidents leading up to the worst attack on Jewish Americans in U.S. history last Saturday, people aren’t making as many calls about graffiti anymore.
“The world has changed,” said Dee Simon, the organization’s Baral Family executive director. “You don’t hear about (those incidents) because it’s happening so often.”
Simon spoke by phone from the center’s downtown Seattle office on Monday, two days after a gunman opened fire at a Pittsburgh synagogue, killing 11 worshippers. The center has been inundated with calls from people throughout the region’s Jewish community offering sympathy and support, she said. The group will take part in Monday evening’s candlelight vigil at Temple De Hirsch Sinai on Capitol Hill.
News of the shooting brought back nightmarish memories for several employees, said Simon. Twelve years ago, the center was renting space in the same building as the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle when a gunman barged into their offices, killing one woman and wounding six others. Those employees still have a great deal of anxiety and fear, Simon said.
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Anti-Semitic incidents surged 57 percent in 2017 from a year earlier to almost 2000 across the U.S., according to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). That’s the highest number since the New York-based nonprofit rights group started keeping records in 1979. In Washington, those attacks rose almost sevenfold last year to 20, the data shows.
The incidents were grouped into three categories: harassment, vandalism and assault. They included the desecration of cemeteries in Indiana, Missouri, Pennsylvania, New York, Connecticut and Massachusetts.
Among the report’s most disturbing findings is the near doubling of reported incidents occurring in K-12 schools and university campuses. Although public areas, such as parks and streets, are where those incidents usually took, they have been surpassed by K-12 schools, it said. Although heightened sensitivity to bullying probably helped increase the number of reported incidents, it’s likely that Jewish students aren’t reporting all of the attacks against them because of the nature of schoolyard bullying, ADL said.
In the wake of the Pittsburgh shooting, the Holocaust Center is boosting efforts with Seattle-area teachers to address anti-Semitism and hate in their classrooms, Simon said. It’s important for the community to fight seemingly small acts of prejudice such as swastika markings because they can lead to discrimination, violence and ultimately murder, she added.
“Unless we talk about it and have these conversations, we risk hate becoming normalized,” Simon said. “It’s our responsibility to have these conversations among ourselves and our children, and ensure that this is always shocking. This is always an affront to humanity.”