ADL annual report: Anti-Semitic incidents in Arizona show record increase

Carlos Galindo-Elvira

The number of anti-Semitic incidents in Arizona surged to 26 in 2017, with the largest single-year increase on record for the region, the Anti-Defamation League said in a new report released Feb. 27. Nineteen percent of the incidents occurred in Tucson, including the bomb threats to the Tucson Jewish Community Center.

The sharp rise, reported in ADL’s Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents, was in part due to a significant increase in incidents in schools.

“The anti-Semitic incidents reported to ADL Arizona reflect a climate of growing incivility and hate groups emboldening their efforts,” said Carlos Galindo-Elvira, ADL Arizona regional director.


ADL, which was founded in 1913, began its annual audit of anti-Semitic incidents in the United States in 1979. Last year, in response to concerns about rising anti-Semitism, ADL stepped up the frequency of its reporting.

In 2017, according to ADL Arizona, the incidents in Arizona included:

• 19 incidents of harassment, up from five in 2016;

• 6 incidents of vandalism, up from five in 2016;

• 1 physical assault, reported for the first time in two years.

Across the United States, there were 1,986 incidents, an increase of 57 percent over 2016. The largest increase in 2017 was in the category of vandalism. This is particularly concerning, according to ADL, because it indicates perpetrators feel emboldened enough to break the law. In the vast majority of vandalism cases the perpetrators remain unidentified.

According to the audit, there are myriad reasons why the numbers are rising, including that more people are reporting incidents to ADL. Anti-Semitic incidents took place in a variety of locations, including private homes, public areas such as parks and streets, Jewish institutions and schools and colleges/universities.

School incidents on the rise

Nationally, anti-Semitic incidents in K-12 schools and college campuses in 2017 nearly doubled over 2016. There were 457 anti-Semitic incidents reported in non-Jewish schools, up from 235 in 2016 and 114 in 2015. Jewish institutions and schools also saw incidents double, jumping from 170 in 2016 to 342 last year. Meanwhile, college campuses saw a total of 204 incidents in 2017, compared to 108 in 2016.

“The consistent increase of anti-Semitic incidents against students of all ages is deeply troubling,” said Jonathan A. Greenblatt, ADL CEO and national director. “We know that students do not always report when they are being bullied, so for every incident that’s reported, it is likely there’s another that goes unreported. This is why it is imperative for schools to have anti-bias and anti-bullying programs, and why we are committing to take our No Place for Hate program into more schools this year.”

ADL’s response

ADL’s approach to address anti-Semitic incidents and behavior includes educating youth to prevent these behaviors and working with law enforcement to apprehend the perpetrators. ADL trains 15,000 law enforcement officials per year, provides anti-bias training widely, including to every new FBI agent, and reaches 1.5 million kids in schools with its anti-bias and anti-bullying training.

“We make government leaders and the public aware of anti-Semitism so we can counter it together,” said Greenblatt. “Anti-Semitism may be the oldest hatred, but it is deeply felt today and we will never give up on our important work to ensure our communities are safe for each and every one.”

ADL recently announced expansions in its work to counter cyber hate with a new center in Silicon Valley, in recognition of the close connection between the rise in hate online and the rise of hate incidents in our communities.

Policy recommendations

ADL is sharing the following policy recommendations with members of Congress and other government leaders:

• Congress should pass legislation to expand federal protections against bomb threats to religious institutions. The House of Representatives approved this legislation, HR 1730, in December.  The Senate must now act and send the measure to the President to sign.

Public officials and law enforcement authorities must use their bully pulpit to speak out against anti-Semitic incidents — and all acts of hate.  These officials must support efforts to punish this conduct to the fullest extent of the law, while providing comfort and assistance to individual victims and community members.

• Victims and bystanders should report all anti-Semitic incidents and vandalism to the Anti-Defamation League and to local police.

• College and university administrators, faculty, and staff must receive the necessary training to effectively respond to anti-Semitic incidents, hate crimes, hate speech, and extremism on campus. Campus officials have a moral obligation to speak out against hate.  Colleges and universities must build an institution for learning that works toward inclusion and equity while also ensuring open expression and a marketplace for ideas.

The ADL Audit includes both criminal and non-criminal acts of harassment and intimidation, including distribution of hate propaganda, threats, and slurs. Compiled using information provided by victims, law enforcement, and community leaders, and evaluated by ADL’s professional staff, the audit assists ADL in developing and enhancing its programs to counter and prevent the spread of anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry.