The figure of 1,547 represents the lowest number
of Anti-Semitic incidents reported to ADL since 1989, when there
were 1,432 incidents. It is also significantly lower than the average
of the past five years (1,659), and lower still than the of average
of the past 10 years (1,752). Ironically, this has occurred against
the backdrop of some of the worst episodes of anti-Semitic violence
in recent memory, the summer of 1999.
Through the efforts of ADL, law enforcement and
others, Jewish institutions have become more security conscious,
and have taken steps to better protect themselves. In 1999, Jewish
institutions experienced an 18 percent decrease in vandalism attacks,
as the number fell from 130 in 1998 to 106 in 1999. Likewise, the
number of harassment incidents against Jewish institutions fell
to 131 from 182 in 1998, a decline of 28 percent.
In many ways the Jewish community in America is
safer and more secure than ever before in American history. Recognition
at the highest levels of government that anti-Semitism
will not be tolerated in the 21st century, as well as responsiveness
to incidents such as those which occurred this summer, contribute
to this sense of security and well-being. In addition, ADL surveys
of recent years reflect a steady decline in anti-Semitic attitudes
held by Americans.
Yet, while these decreases and the five- and 10-year
trends inspire cautious optimism, they should not invite complacency
or overconfidence. Anti-Semitism in the U.S. should not be viewed
as just the sum total of incidents reported to ADL. These incidents
are part of a larger picture, which must be placed in the broader
context. According to the FBI's annual report on hate crimes, more
than 75 percent of all such acts perpetrated on the basis of religion
were directed against Jewish individuals and institutions. Further,
as always, anti-Semitic and racist organizations such as the World
Church of the Creator, the National Alliance and the Ku Klux Klan
continue to recruit members and advertise their hatred to as many
eyes and ears as possible. ADL has documented and monitors dozens
of major organizations and movements active on the extreme-right
fringe of American society. These groups are responsible for an
equal number of publications. Many of them have gained access to
much wider audiences by building Web sites that promote their propaganda.
These sites, numbering in the hundreds and growing, are relatively
easy and inexpensive to build and maintain, and because the Internet
is virtually impossible to regulate, they can influence Web surfers,
many of them children and teen-agers. They facilitate communication
and coordination among such groups.
Even with a clear understanding of hate groups in
America, the Audit does not fully tell the story; behind each individual
incident, each statistic, lies a real person or community in pain.
The lasting effect of anti-Semitism and racism on individuals and
communities should not be overlooked.
Community leaders have a significant role to play
in relieving the effects of anti Jewish incidents, and in helping
prevent similar acts in the future. In their distinct spheres of
influence, educators, clergy, law enforcement personnel and parents
have the opportunity to act and speak out against hateful speech
and behavior, while promoting education that encourages tolerance
and respect for differences. Over time, proactive measures such
as education, anti-bias and diversity training and hate-crimes legislation
can lead to changes in behavior that may reduce hate activity. In
the meantime, we are faced with a seemingly paradoxical reality:
on the one hand, 1999 witnessed some of the most horrific acts of
anti-Semitic violence in recent memory, focusing the attention of
the Jewish community in America to a significant degree. On the
other hand, in the main anti-Semitic incidents were down in 1999.
That paradox reflects the complexity of American Jewish life at
the beginning of the new millennium.