The Anti-Defamation League reported a sharp uptick in anti-Semitic incidents in California last year, many of them involving taunts, threats and insults by adolescents and teenagers.
In one typical example, a Jewish middle school teacher in Los Angeles found swastikas drawn on her classroom door and a note, also featuring swastikas, that read, "You're next."
“These are not necessarily kids who are filled with hatred in their hearts and mean to be malicious," said Amanda Susskind, regional director for the organization. But she said the trend was still troubling and may reflect the pervasiveness of hate speech on the Internet.
She also blamed the broader increase in anti-Semitic incidents, some of them violent, on the confluence of three events: the election of President Obama, the recession and the Israeli incursion into the Gaza Strip. Combined, she said, they had emboldened extremists and led to a coarsening of the tone of national debate.
She added that the arrest and conviction of rogue financier Bernard Madoff, who is Jewish, contributed to a lot of anti-Semitic "chatter."
The ADL report, issued Tuesday morning, is somewhat at odds with a report on hate crime issued last week by California Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown. That report showed that crimes motivated by anti-Semitism declined in 2009, as did crimes motivated by hatred against other religious and ethnic groups.
Susskind said the ADL was monitoring a much broader range of incidents, many of which are not crimes. She also noted that Brown's report found that 76% of the hate crimes motivated by religious bias were against Jews. Muslims were next, at 6%.
Although the ADL found that anti-Semitic acts in California had increased by 20% for the second straight year, the organization found that anti-Semitic acts nationally had declined from 1,352 in 2008 to 1,211 last year. However, it noted that it had raised the bar in some regions for what counted as anti-Semitism -- for example, including reports of swastikas only when they were clearly aimed at Jews.
In California, Susskind said, the ADL had already been applying the stricter standards after finding that swastikas sometimes reflected hatred for groups other than Jews and sometimes had no apparent meaning as symbols of hate.
-- Mitchell Landsberg