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

VII. Regional Breakdown

The East   >   The West   >   Midwest   >   The South

A. The East

East In the 11 Eastern states plus the District of Columbia, there was a total of 894 incidents, the highest of the four regions. Once again, New York had the most (324, down from 380 in 1997), followed by New Jersey (229, up from 197); Massachusetts (107, up from 99); Pennsylvania (70, up from 62); Maryland (69, down from 79); Connecticut (52, down from 60); the District of Columbia (20, down from 27); New Hampshire (8, up from 4); Rhode Island (6, up from 0); Maine (6, down from 10), and Vermont (3, up from 0). There were no incidents reported in Delaware in 1998.


The face of anti-Semitism in the Northeast this past year looked much like that of other years -- swastikas on school walls, Jewish cemeteries desecrated, synagogues vandalized and individuals harassed. Newer forms included the sale of a laser pointer with a swastika head and the use of the Internet to distribute messages of hate.

Notable incidents included one in which two 14-year-old boys in Massachusetts sent threatening, anti-Semitic and homophobic letters to their social studies teacher. The letters had a chilling effect not only on the teacher but the entire school community. ADL assisted the victim and advised school administrators on a school-wide response to emphasize that teachers cannot teach and students cannot learn in an atmosphere of hate. ADL also worked closely with law enforcement to ensure that the youths, who subsequently confessed to writing the letters, were charged with state civil rights violations and held accountable for their hateful actions.

On a positive note, there were strong interfaith responses to anti-Semitic incidents this past year. People of various religious faiths stood together to rededicate Jewish headstones that had been desecrated in Peabody, Massachusetts. After a swastika was sprayed on a family's lawn by a group of young people dressed as Ku Klux Klansmen, residents of Hatfield, Massachusetts, held a rally beneath banners stating "Not in Our Town."

Unfortunately, young people -- generally teen-agers -- are the suspected perpetrators in all of the incidents described above. Consequently, ADL has made working with youth a top priority in the past year through its A WORLD OF DIFFERENCE® Institute, Team Harmony events, and Youth Diversion Program. We are teaching young people that if they hear something hateful, they need to say something about it and if they see something hateful, they need to do something about it -- valuable lessons for the old as well as the young.

The East   >   The West   >   Midwest   >   The South

B. The West

The West

In the 13 Western states, there was a total of 308 anti-Semitic incidents in 1998. California had the most with 223 (up from 180 in 1997), followed by Arizona (26, up from 10); Washington (19, the same number as in 1997); Colorado (12, down from 14); New Mexico (11, same as in 1997); Nevada (10, up from 5); Idaho (4, same as last year); Oregon (2, down from 5), and Wyoming (1, up from 0). There were no incidents reported in Alaska, Hawaii, Montana or Utah in 1998.


In the West, the phenomenon that best characterizes 1998 in terms of the ADL Audit is the explosion of offensive, bigoted anti-Semitic incidents that were perfectly legal. Over the past year, community members frequently called ADL Offices throughout the West to ask for assistance in dealing with anti-Semitic E-mail messages sent to Jewish university professors; extremist flyers inserted into free newspapers, and an Aryan Nations' march through downtown Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. Unlike more familiar situations, these cases demand a carefully tailored, creative approach that can vary from drafting model legislation to contacting Internet service providers. ADL's Western Offices worked to support the rights of citizens to keep hate out of their homes, schools, and communities, while also recognizing the First Amendment rights of the bigots to distribute their propaganda.

  • Racist and anti-Semitic flyers were at the heart of a distinct trend in the West. Once again, flyers and stickers were found in synagogues, city halls, street corners, mailboxes, grocery stores and car windshields.

  • Unsolicited, anonymous anti-Semitic and racist materials were received in the mail by Jewish women in Seattle, by residents of Sandpoint, Idaho, and by several Southern California high school student body presidents. In addition, many college professors across the West received anti-Semitic E-mail messages.

  • In one particularly aggressive hate-mail campaign, ADL helped meet the bigots head on. In mid-1998, a number of California communities experienced a wave of extremist literature being inserted into free newspapers. The papers were distributed to residents or left on newspaper racks; readers who found the offensive flyers called law enforcement and ADL. What the League discovered surprised us: no law had been broken. So ADL teamed up with the California Newspaper Publishers Association to propose legislation addressing the issue. The new California law likens such an insertion of flyers to theft of advertising and makes this practice a misdemeanor. By closing this loophole, ADL hopes to send a strong message to extremist groups -- whenever you think you have thwarted the law, we will be right behind you, closing the loopholes.

  • In general, the government must allow an extremist group, like any other organization, to march or rally on a city's streets. In 1998, Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, was the site of an Aryan Nations march. The anti-Semitic, racist group applied for, and was granted, a permit to march. Concerned community members, led by the Kootenai County Human Rights Taskforce, took action. Using an ADL model, they organized "Project Lemonade," so called because "when life hands you lemons, you make lemonade." Project Lemonade participants got pledges from many people to donate money to civil rights groups, including ADL, for each minute Aryan Nations marched. The city's residents partnered with residents of nearby Spokane, Washington, and organized activities for children and adults to clear the streets of onlookers during the march. The goal was to have the Aryans marching down an empty street, denying them an audience. Aryan Nations marched in front of many TV cameras, but few residents, and Project Lemonade was hailed as a resounding success.

The East   >   The West   >   Midwest   >   The South

C. Midwest

Midwest In the 14 states that comprise the Midwestern region, 201 incidents were reported to ADL in 1998. Michigan had the most, with 57 (up from 40 in 1997), followed by Illinois (36, down from 51); Ohio (35, down from 63); Minnesota (32, up from 1); Wisconsin (16, up from 5); Missouri (7, down from 18); Indiana (6, up from 5); Nebraska (3, same as 1997); Kansas (3, up from 0); West Virginia (2, up from 1); Iowa (2, same as in 1997); Kentucky (1, down from 5), and South Dakota (1, same as in 1997). There were no incidents reported in North Dakota in 1998.


Chicago has undertaken an important initiative in sentencing juvenile and young adult offenders who have committed anti-Semitic hate crimes. In increasing number, courts are imposing community service sentences in conjunction with other penalties for hate crimes committed by either juveniles or young adults.

In one case, a neo-Nazi skinhead cell recruiting out of New Trier High School in suburban Chicago was convicted of spray-painting swastikas and other anti-Semitic graffiti on a community synagogue. ADL was involved in assisting the school and local community in responding to the crime, and the League's juvenile diversion program was imposed and coordinated by and through the county Juvenile Probation Office. The community response to ADL's efforts was positive, and debriefing of the juveniles after completion of the diversion program suggested that the youths were substantially affected. In particular, the juveniles noted that the hate crime victim interviews and Holocaust survivor interviews were very powerful and led them to reevaluate their views.

The League's commitment to "rehabilitative justice" programs is an outgrowth of studies that document success in interactive workshops for juvenile offenders. Through the League's diversion program, which forces offenders to confront the nature of hate and the impact of their conduct, young offenders are offered an opportunity to transform a negative act into a basis for personal change. Early indications reveal that much of the educational content of ADL's multidisciplinary diversion program facilitates introspection often absent from conventional educational and correctional methods.

The East   >   The West   >   Midwest   >   The South

D. The South

The South

In the 12 Southern states, there was a total of 208 incidents. Florida reported the most (102, down from 114 in 1997), followed by Virginia (38, up from 14); Texas (30, down from 33), Georgia (20, down from 23); North Carolina (9, up from 3); Louisiana (3, down from 5); South Carolina (2, down from 4); Alabama (2, up from 1), and Arkansas (2, same as in 1997). No incidents were reported in Tennessee, Oklahoma or Mississippi in 1998.


ADL was founded in the aftermath of one of the earliest and perhaps most egregious anti-Semitic episodes of the 20th century: the unfair and prejudicial trial of Jewish factory manager Leo Frank, who was lynched by a mob in Georgia after being falsely accused of murdering a Christian girl.

In October 1998, ADL confronted a far less violent, albeit disturbing, situation in a high school English class in Flagler County, Florida. The teacher distributed a handout asking students to order sets of sentences from the most specific to the most general. Among the statements were: "Jews hate Catholics" and "Jews are Christ killers." The teacher, who had taken the exercise 20 years earlier from a workbook now out of print, had used the handout before without objection.

The ADL Florida Regional Office, whose assistance was solicited by the local Jewish Federa-tion, spoke with a number of community leaders and with the state representative from the area. Beyond a permanent written reprimand which the superintendent placed in the teacher's file and a public apology extended by the teacher herself, ADL recommended more intense supervision of her classroom activities and diversity training in the district. In response, the school district agreed to subsidize a faculty representative's participation in an ADL A WORLD OF DIFFERENCE® Institute train-the-trainers session.

Whether incidents recorded by the Audit are violent or verbal, the American Jewish community should not reduce its vigilance regarding threats posed by bigots. Each occurrence is traumatic to the Jewish victim involved and the Jewish community of which he or she is a part. Without either underestimating or exaggerating the danger, ADL will continue to serve as a bulwark against the perils of complacency.

Next: Arrests

Return to Top

1998 Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents Front Page | Combating Hate Front Page

ADL On-line Home | Search | About ADL | Contact ADL

© 1999 Anti-Defamation League