Anti-Semitic Incidents Jumped 42 Percent in Massachusetts in 2017

The Anti-Defamation League recorded 177 reports of vandalism and assault in the Bay State last year, the fourth-highest total nationwide.

Boston's Holocaust Memorial

Photo by Lloyd Mallison

Reports of Anti-Semitic incidents rose 42 percent in Massachusetts in 2017 and are up 254 percent since 2015, according to new data released by the Anti-Defamation League.

Last year, there were 68 reports of harassment and 109 incidents of vandalism in 79 Bay State communities, though the spike in episodes here is lower than the national average. ADL’s annual “Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents” paints a sobering picture of the continued surge of hate in the United States, as reports of anti-Semitism—1,986 in total—increased by 57 percent nationwide in 2017. The growth is the largest year-over-year jump the ADL has seen since it started tracking data in 1979. It is also the second-highest total ever recorded by the organization, which found 2,066 such incidents in 1994, according to the New York Times.

The 177 incidents in Massachusetts are the fourth-most in any state, behind New York, California, and New Jersey. Last year saw a notable rise in anti-Semitic vandalism, in particular, with reports growing 86 percent nationwide and 73 percent in Massachusetts. The ADL wrote in its report that the increase in vandalism “is particularly concerning, because it indicates that the perpetrators feel emboldened enough to break the law.”

Despite the increased prevalence of anti-Semitic vandalism and harassment (which grew 12 percent in the Bay State and 41 percent across the country), reports of religiously motivated assault declined. There were no assault reports in Massachusetts last year, and the national total, 19, is 47 percent lower than the 2016 figure.

In years past, the ADL data indicated public areas like parks and pavilions were the most common locations for anti-Semitic incidents to occur. Last year, however, the number of reports filed from K-12 schools—457—outpaced public spaces. The organization’s findings indicate a 94 percent spike in primary and secondary school-based incidents between 2016 and 2017, and an 89 percent increase in incidents occurring at colleges and universities. There were 93 reported anti-Semitic incidents at Massachusetts K-12 schools last year, an 86 percent jump over 2016.

Jonathan Greenblatt, the chief executive of the ADL, told the Times that several factors likely contributed to the ballooning reports, including the divisiveness of contemporary politics, the energizing of extremists, and social media. Together, Greenblatt told the Times, these forces and “the diminishment of civility in society, [create] and environment in which intolerance really can flourish.”