Anti-Semitic Incidents Decrease in New England; in Massachusetts Remain Constant
Boston, MA, March 5, 2008 … The number of anti-Semitic incidents in Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont declined to 117 in 2007, from 124 the year before, according to statistics newly released by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). The five states comprise ADL's New England Region.
The findings are consistent with those nationally. The League's annual Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents, issued today, counted a total of 1,357 incidents of vandalism, harassment and other acts of hate against Jewish individuals, property and community institutions in 2007, representing a 13 percent decline from the 1,554 incidents reported in 2006.
The rate in Massachusetts was roughly unchanged: 95 in 2007, down from 96 in 2006, but Maine recorded 9 complaints, up sharply from just one in the prior reporting period. The sharpest decline was in Rhode Island: three last year compared with 11 in 2006. One finding of particular concern is that incidents at educational institutions increased to 28 from 15. There were five complaints of anti-Semitic behavior on college campuses in 2007, in contrast to only two reports in 2006.
Appallingly, public officials were among those responsible for incidents in 2007. Maureen Kenney, a member of the Randolph School Committee, said to Superintendent of Schools Richard Silverman during contract talks, "I don't see any side curls on your head, so what the hell do you need five days of bereavement leave for?" She subsequently resigned from the School Committee. Taunton School Committeeman Alfred Baptista gave a Nazi salute and said "Sieg heil" in response to a comment by fellow Committeeman Barry Cooperstein. Baptista publicly apologized for his behavior.
"While we are encouraged to see declines overall," said Robert O. Trestan, ADL Eastern States Civil Rights Counsel. "The spike in education-related incidents as well as the fact that public officials were guilty of anti-Semitic behavior is proof that we cannot be complacent. Vigorous education and enforcement programs remain essential to fighting hatred against Jews and other groups."
Mr. Trestan noted that the statistics are based on a voluntary reporting system and as such "may represent only the tip of the iceberg." He also pointed out that numbers often are higher in places, such as the City of Boston, where the police department has a unit that focuses solely on hate crimes and therefore more likely to uncover bias incidents. "Working with law enforcement agencies to provide assistance in investigations and training programs for their personnel is an ongoing priority of ADL," Mr. Trestan said.
"We also have community-based and school programs that play an important role in building a society where hate against one is seen as hate against all," he said. "We have long been dedicated to the principle that because bigotry is not innate but is something that is learned, it is vitally important to reach children at an early age with a message of respect for diversity. This is why incidents in an academic setting are especially troubling."
Among the school and campus incidents reported last year were:
- Worcester, MA: Swastikas were spray painted on the door of a suite occupied by two Jewish students at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), and the word "Jew" was written on a student's white board. ADL provided resources from its Confronting Anti-Semitism program to help the college's Hillel respond.
- Weston, MA: Students were discovered using anti-Semitic, sexist, and homophobic language in signing their friends' yearbooks. ADL's A WORLD OF DIFFERENCE® Institute worked closely with the school's administration and faculty, who developed strategies and action steps to help prevent a recurrence.
- Worcester MA: The New Jewish Academy in Worcester was vandalized – eight smashed windows – and a nearby public school was spray painted with anti-Semitic symbols including Stars of David and a caricature of a Hasidic Jew. ADL worked with Jewish community leaders and the Police Department.
- Westwood, MA: There was a series of anti-Semitic incidents including boys in the school hallways giving Nazi salutes and making derogatory comments about Jews, a swastika painted in a boys restroom, and a student stomping on a yarmulke. ADL worked with the parents and school officials, and has A WORLD OF DIFFERENCE® Institute program in the school system.
- Massachusetts: The week before a scheduled game against Sharon High School, all but three members of another school's varsity girls' soccer team planned to wear red and green clothes and Santa jingle bell hats as part of their game uniforms. A teacher overheard one team member bragging that they were doing this intentionally because of Sharon's largely Jewish population. School officials put a stop to it, but then parents of the offending team members complained about the school's response. Working with the school to address the situation, ADL delivered interactive student assemblies to each grade level to promote greater respect for individual differences, and it also reached out to our partners in the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association.
The Audit divides anti-Semitic incidents into two categories: Vandalism, such as property damage, cemetery desecration or anti-Semitic graffiti; and Harassment, including physical or verbal assaults directed at individuals or institutions. In New England, Harassment fell to 79 incidents in 2007 compared with 88 in 2006, but Vandalism increased to 38 vs. 36 in 2006.
The Anti-Defamation League, founded in 1913, is the world's leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry.