1998 Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents
Executive Summary
Serious Incidents
Harassment, Threats
& Assaults
Vandalism Incidents
Campus Incidents
Regional Breakdown
Communities Respond
Note on Evaluating
Anti-Semitic Incidents
Charts and Graphs

Audit Data Charts

Listing of Reported
1998 Campus Incidents

Related Link(s):

ADL Model Hate Crimes Legislation

States with Penalty-Enhancement Hate Crimes Laws

State Hate Crimes Statutory Provisions

ADL Resources

X. Conclusion

Although there were 40 more anti-Semitic incidents reported to ADL in 1998 than in 1997 (an increase of more than 2 percent), the figure of 1,611 represents significantly fewer anti-Semitic incidents than the average of the past 10 years (1,741), and fewer still than the average of the last five years (1,763). With the exception of 1997's figure of 1,571, the 1998 total of 1,611 represents the lowest number of anti-Semitic incidents since 1989, when there were 1,432 incidents reported nationwide.

Graffiti on a wall in Los Angeles County, California.
Graffiti on a wall in Los Angeles County, California.
Yet, while five- and 10-year trends inspire cautious optimism, they should not invite complacency or overconfidence. According to the FBI's annual report on hate crimes, in 1998 nearly 80 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 continue to recruit members and advertise their hatred to as many eyes and ears as possible. ADL documents 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 newsletters, magazines and other publications. Many of them have gained access to much wider audiences by building Web sites that promote their propaganda. These sites are relatively easy and inexpensive to build and maintain and, because the Internet is virtually impossible to regulate, they can influence and recruit Web surfers, many of them children and teen-agers. The continued influence of Nation of Islam leader Minister Louis Farrakhan adds another dimension to the picture of anti-Semitism in America today. Despite his documented history of anti-Semitic and anti-white rhetoric, Farrakhan has continued to gain legitimacy in some Black communities, as well as with some members of the press and with politicians who met with him.

The anti-Jewish propaganda and activities of these groups augment the Audit's findings. 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 of anti-Semitism worldwide. For example, in 1998, there were several anti-Semitic incidents, and documented statements made by high-ranking government officials in Russia that harkened back to familiar anti-Semitic canards attempting to blame Jews for difficult economic times. Further, the League for Human Rights of Canadian B'nai Brith reported a 14 percent increase in anti-Semitic incidents in Canada in 1998.

At the same time, even with a clear understanding of hate groups in America, the Audit does not fully tell the story; behind each individual incident or 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 alleviating the effects of anti-Jewish incidents, and in helping to 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 which may reduce hate activity. In the meantime, we are faced with a complex reality: while there has been a general decline in the amount of anti-Semitic activity in America over the past decade, in 1998 there was a leveling off, and there were a troubling number of vandalism attacks against Jewish institutions. While the decline in anti-Semitic activity over the long term is encouraging, it should not lead to complacent thinking that anti-hate measures have served their purpose. Rather, we believe that our anti-hate measures are having an impact, and we pledge to maintain and increase those efforts.

Next: Note on Evaluating Anti-Semitic Incidents

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