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ADL Audit: 1,211 Anti-Semitic Incidents Across the Country in 2009

The number of anti-Semitic incidents in the United States remained at a “sustained and troubling” level in 2009, according to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), which compiles annually a statistical audit of anti-Semitic assaults, vandalism and harassment.

The 2009 ADL Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents, released today, counted a total of 1,211 incidents of vandalism, harassment and physical assaults against Jewish individuals, property, and community institutions across the U.S.

Using a newly revised methodology for reporting and tracking incidents, the ADL Audit identified 29 physical assaults on Jewish individuals, 760 incidents of anti-Semitic harassment and threats, and 422 cases of anti-Semitic vandalism during the 2009 calendar year.

“America is not immune to anti-Semitism, and 2009 was no different in this regard than in any other year,” said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director.  “It is a sobering reality that as Jews have become more accepted in society, there remains a consistent hatred of Jews among too many.  The fact that Jews continue to be singled out for acts of hate on an average of three times per day in this country is a disturbing reality that we have to confront.”

“The Audit is one snapshot of anti-Semitism in America,” added Robert G. Sugarman, ADL National Chair.  “While it is by no means a complete picture of the problem, it presents us with important statistical data to help us identify and to quantify the wheres, whys and hows of anti-Semitism in society.”

The 2009 calendar year was marked by several violent anti-Semitic incidents and dangerous threats to Jewish institutions, as well as numerous incidents of harassment affecting Jewish communities large and small.  Major incidents included the shooting attack on the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. by an avowed Holocaust denier, a thwarted plot by four Muslim converts to bomb synagogues in Riverdale, New York, and repeated in-your-face picketing of institutions and community centers by members of an avowedly anti-Semitic, Kansas-based church.

It was also a year in which the Internet played an increasingly dominant role in the dissemination of anti-Semitic messages and content through social networking and content-sharing Web sites.  (While ADL monitors and exposes online anti-Semitism, it does not include statistics on anti-Semitism in cyberspace as part of the Audit).

The 2009 ADL Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents comprises data from 46 states and the District of Columbia, including official crime statistics as well as information provided to ADL’s regional offices by victims, law enforcement officers and community leaders and members.  The Audit encompasses criminal acts, such as vandalism, violence and threats of violence, as well as non-criminal incidents of harassment and intimidation.

New Reporting Standards

For the first time in the more than three decades ADL has tracked and reported on anti-Semitic incidents, the 2009 Audit was significantly revamped to improve reporting methods and update some evaluation criteria.  At the same time, a new technology platform was developed that enabled the League’s 30 regional offices to record and track incidents with even greater speed and accuracy.

As a result, the 2009 total of 1,211 incidents does not include incidents that would have been categorized as anti-Semitic under the previous Audit system.  In 2008 – prior to the adoption of enhanced reporting methods – the League recorded a total of 1,352 incidents.  The decline of 10 percent between the 2008 and 2009 figures is not inclusive of incidents that would have been counted under the previous methodology.

“In an effort to make the Audit as accurate as possible in measuring anti-Semitic incidents in America, we have decided to take a more conservative approach to counting certain types of incidents, including graffiti and swastikas,” said Mr. Foxman.  “We know that the swastika has, for some, lost its meaning as the primary symbol of Nazism and instead become a more generalized symbol of hate.  So we are being more careful to include graffiti incidents that specifically target Jews or Jewish institutions as we continue the process of re-evaluating and redefining how we measure anti-Jewish incidents.”

For reporting purposes, the ADL Audit divides anti-Semitic incidents into three categories: Anti-Semitic Assaults, involving violence against Jewish individuals or those thought to be Jewish; Vandalism, such as property damage, cemetery desecration or anti-Semitic graffiti; and Harassment, including threats, slurs and activity by anti-Semitic hate groups:

  • ·Assaults: A total of 29 assaults were reported in 2009.  The incidents included under assaults included a “kick a Jew day” at a Florida middle school, a brick thrown at an identifiably Jewish man, an individual physically assaulted by a racist skinhead, and numerous bomb threats against Jewish institutions.
    ·   Vandalism: There were 422 cases of vandalism reported in 2009, including rocks thrown at synagogue windows, anti-Semitic graffiti and attacks on Jewish cemeteries.
    ·Harassment: With 760 harassments reported in 2009, including anti-Jewish taunts and threats, this category accounted for more than 62 percent of all incidents reported.


Continuing a longtime trend, the states with the highest totals were those with large Jewish populations.  The top four states were California, with 275 incidents, or 23 percent of the total; New York with 209 incidents, or 17 percent of the total; New Jersey with 132 incidents, or 10 percent of the total; and Florida with 90 incidents, or 7 percent of the total.  (State-by-State Totals).

Behind the 2009 Audit’s statistics, several important trends were identified:

  • · Extremist Plots to Kill Jews


The Jewish community in the United States was the target of serious threats to life and security, as several extremists motivated by anti-Semitic ideology attempted to carry out murderous attacks against Jewish institutions.  The most prominent incident was the June 2009 shooting at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, in which a white supremacist and anti-Semite killed an African-American security guard before being critically wounded himself.  The 88-year-old shooter, James Von Brunn, who subsequently died of his wounds, was a longtime white supremacist and anti-Semite who had published an anti-Semitic book and created an anti-Jewish Web site.

Other terror plots included:

— In May 2009 in New York, four Muslim converts were arrested for an alleged plot to attack two synagogues in the Riverdale section of the Bronx and to shoot down planes at a military base.  The men allegedly began surveillance of several synagogues and a Jewish community center in April 2009.  According to a federal prosecutor, the four men were “eager to bring death to Jews.”

— In January 2009 in Brockton, Massachusetts, police arrested a white supremacist after he allegedly killed two people and raped a third.  The arrest put a stop to what authorities say was a pre-planned racially motivated killing spree directed at Jews and non-whites that would have continued later in the evening.

  • · Actions by the Westboro Baptist Church


Many Jewish institutions across America were targeted by (or were threatened by) protestors from the virulently anti-Semitic Westboro Baptist Church (WBC), a small Topeka, Kansas-based hate group.  At these protests, church members held signs stating that “The Jews killed Jesus,” that “God Hates Jews,” and “God Hates Israel.”  WBC also sent volumes (in some cases dozens over the course of a week) of faxes and e-mails with anti-Semitic and anti-gay messages to numerous Jewish institutions and individuals.  The group protested at scores of Jewish institutions, including synagogues, Jewish community centers and Israeli consulates, and its airing of age-old anti-Semitic charges like deicide provoked anxiety, anger and outrage in many communities.  (More on WBC)

  • Anti-Semitism Goes Viral


While the League has monitored hate on the Internet for many years, 2009 was marked by a severe intensification of anti-Semitic expression in cyberspace.  There was a significant increase in the amount of anti-Semitism found on online social networking sites, such as Facebook and MySpace, and user-generated content sites, like YouTube. 

Anti-Semitism flourished on a variety of social networking sites.  Facebook, in particular, has become a widely used platform for users seeking to link their anti-Semitic views to discussions of Israel.  Numerous Facebook groups were created in early 2009 in support of the Palestinians, and many of these groups also contained vile anti-Semitism.  One Facebook group called “I Hate Israel,” which boasted more than 1,000 members in 2009, contained dozens of anti-Semitic posts.

Anti-Semitic comments also flourished on mainstream media Web sites in connection to stories on the Middle East, or stories dealing with the arrest of Jewish businessman Bernard Madoff and the revelation of his multibillion dollar Ponzi scheme.  In the case of Madoff, most of the anti-Semitic comments tended to focus on alleged Jewish greed and thievery, as well as conspiracy theories linking financial losses to Israel.  (More on Viral Anti-Semitism)

  • Anti-Semitic Expressions at anti-Israel Protests


In 2009 anti-Israel protests were a major source of anti-Semitic agitation in the U.S.  These mainly included anti-Semitic expressions at anti-Israel rallies held in response to Israel’s actions in Gaza in January 2009.  At these rallies Holocaust imagery and analogies proliferated and various speakers and placards accused Jews of controlling the U.S. government, among other anti-Jewish accusations and canards. (More on anti-Israel Protests)

The following are selected incidents of assaults, vandalism and harassment reported to ADL in 2009:

Assaults: Selected Incidents in 2009


  • February 21, 2009: Lincoln, Nebraska – Jewish girl was shot with air-soft gun.  Assailants yelled, “Jew girl, we are going to do what the Germans did.”


  • March 6, 2009: Newton, Massachusetts – Man was hit in the face with a thrown egg while someone yelled, “Kike.”


  • April 20, 2009: Buena Park, California – Jewish student beat up after confronting classmate drawing swastikas.


  • June 26, 2009: Pendleton, Oregon – Jewish individual assaulted by skinhead.


  • August 25, 2009: Brooklyn, New York – An 11-year-old Jewish girl was assaulted and taunted with anti-Semitic comments by a gang of African-American teens in a public playground.


  • September 20, 2009: Brooklyn, New York – Jewish man wearing a kippah was assaulted with a brick by two unknown persons.


  • November 1, 2009: Boca Raton, Florida – A Holocaust survivor assaulted and subjected to anti-Semitic slurs.


  • November 18, 2009: Naples, Florida – Numerous incidents took place during a “Kick a Jew Day” at middle school.


More Assaults



Vandalism: Selected Incidents in 2009


  • January 1, 2009: Knoxville, Tennessee – Vandals threw rocks at two synagogues, breaking several stained-glass windows.


  • February 15, 2009: San Francisco, California – “F— the Jews and “F— Anne Frank” was drawn on benches at middle school.


  • April 6, 2009: University of Florida, Florida – A large swastika was painted on house belonging to Alpha Epsilon Pi, a Jewish fraternity.


  • April 8, 2009: Cape Coral, Florida – “Hitler was here,” “White Power” and several swastikas were drawn on approximately a dozen homes and a police cruiser.


  • April 10, 2009: Damascus, Maryland – Thirteen swastikas and KKK graffiti were found in synagogue parking lot on second day of Passover.


  • April 22, 2009: Union City, New Jersey – Vandals broke into a Jewish education center, laid two pieces of wood on a desk in the shape of a cross, and set it on fire.


  • May 12, 2009: Chandler, Arizona – A sign announcing the construction of a Jewish religious institution was defaced with a large swastika and white supremacist graffiti.


  • July 17, 2009: Queens, New York – Several mausoleums were damaged and approximately 55 headstones overturned in Jewish cemetery.


More Vandalisms

Anti-Semitic Harassment: Selected Incidents in 2009


  • February 5, 2009: Tidewater, Virginia – Students held “Kick a Jew Day.”


  • March 2, 2009: Monroe Township, New Jersey – Harassing phone calls were received by several people in connection with a Holocaust memorial program.  Messages included, “I am a Christian and I hate the f—ing dirty Jews.”


  • April 1, 2009: Manhattan, New York – Three Jewish professors at Columbia University’s Teachers College received envelopes containing swastikas in their mailboxes.


  • May 11, 2009: Madison, Connecticut – A student was taunted by a classmate with taunts such as  “I hate all Hebrews,” “I have some German relatives who would love to kill you,” and “Jews are easy targets.”


  • June 1, 2009: Munster, Indiana – A Jewish student was passed a note on which a classmate had drawn a photo of Hitler pointing a gun at a Jew holding a dollar bill.  An anti-Semitic caption was included.


  • June 27, 2009: Fair Lawn, New Jersey – As families were exiting synagogue, a passing car slowed down and a passenger yelled, “Six million more!  Six million more!”


  • November 12, 2009: Wallingford, Connecticut – An actor taking part in a Hansel and Gretel scene told onlookers, “If there are any Jews here, you have to go into the ovens first.”

(Source: ADL Press Release)

2 Responses

  1. though i love the adl (and im right wing) its completely inaccurate, i cant even count how many times last year i could have been another number on that list. theres nobody to tell and nobody that cares when an antisemitic incident occurs, and if theres no verbalization of racial slurs theres absolutely no proof of the reason period

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