HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — Jews were targeted in more incidents in America in 2021 than in any other year dating back to at least 1979, while incidents in Pennsylvania declined by more than in any other state to their lowest number in years.
That’s according to data contained within a report released Tuesday by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).
The ADL’s aim? “To stop the decimation of the Jewish people and to secure justice and fair treatment to all,” said Andrew Goretsky, the organization’s director for its Philadelphia region, which includes eastern Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey, and Delaware.
ADL considers classifies as anti-Semitic any incident in which the victim was targeted due to their Jewish identity. That includes four 2021 assaults in Pennsylvania, such as one in which a “visibly Jewish man” was assaulted in Philadelphia by a man who — according to ADL — said right before the assault: “Keep on walking, you Jewish motherf—r. I should beat your Jewish motherf—-g a– right now.” It also includes more common incidents of vandalism, such as one at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Cumberland County.
Nationally, the 2,717 anti-Semitic incidents confirmed by ADL in 2021 represented a 34 percent increase over 2020’s 2,060 incidents. Pennsylvania’s 69 incidents, on the other hand, represented a 32 percent decline from 101 confirmed in 2020; that, in turn, was a decline from 109 in 2019.
The decline of 32 incidents, from 101 to 69, was more than in any other state. In percentage terms, the 32 percent decline was greater than in any state with a large sample size of incidents. (Delaware’s decline from nine to three — a 66 percent decline — was the best overall improvement in percentage terms.)
In percentage terms, no state fared worse than Minnesota, where incidents more than tripled from 23 in 2020 to 75 in 2021. Cases in Texas nearly tripled, from 42 to 112. In raw numeric terms, New York (with an increase in 80 cases from 336 to 416), California (an increase of 78 cases), and New Jersey (75) contributed most to the overall decline.
Goretsky noted that 2021’s 69 incidents in Pennsylvania were still more than the state’s long-term annual average of 65. And “even one incident is too many,” he said.
Regarding the nationwide increase, is it possible ADL has just broadened its definition of anti-Semitic incidents — more incidents reported, in other words, but not necessarily more incidents actually occurring? No, Goretsky said.
“We are we have a consistent method that our center on extremism uses to measure incidents, and we ensure that incidents are credible,” he said. “The data is so important to keep accurate so that we have good data to then really have an understanding of the scope of the issue, to then tackle it and fight it and resolve the challenge.”
Goretsky said ADL is routinely aware of other likely incidents of antisemitism that it doesn’t include within its numbers, because it can’t confirm them. He said between that and other incidents that are likely never reported, the true numbers of anti-Semitic cases in Pennsylvania and the U.S. are likely higher.
Goretsky said ADL has focused resources on educating and training students, “reaching young people at a time when they’re most vulnerable to bullying and social pressures.” The public, he said, can help by reporting incidents to local law enforcement and ADL.
He said although anti-Semitism is ADL’s primary focus, it’s not the organization’s only concern.
“We do coalition-building with lots of other civil rights organizations and continue to partner with many different organizations to fight hate in all of its forms,” Goretsky said. “Because really, we can’t fight anti-Semitism or any form of hate unless we’re all working together as a larger community.”