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Anti-Semitic Incidents Surge in Colorado in 2016, Continue to Spike in 2017

Denver, CO, April 24, 2017 … The number of anti-Semitic incidents reported in Colorado more than doubled in 2016 from the previous year, according to new data released today by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). ADL’s annualAudit of Anti-Semitic Incidents recorded 45 incidents in Colorado in 2016 compared to 18 incidents in 2015.

There has been a marked increase in the harassment of Jewish individuals and vandalism of Jewish institutions in the last six months with 15 anti-Semitic incidents already recorded in the first quarter of 2017, including two bomb threats received by the Boulder Jewish Community Center earlier this year.

ADL Mountain States Regional Director Scott L. Levin issued the following statement:

“The increase in anti-Semitic incidents in Colorado is quite concerning, especially when the number of incidents more than doubled in just one year’s time. And, the level of anti-Semitic harassment and vandalism is not slowing down this year. We are doing everything we can to shed light on the increased targeting of Jews in our state, as well as Jewish schools, community centers and synagogues. Increased awareness and vigilance are the watchwords of this time.”

The 2016 ADL Audit identified:

  • 29 cases of harassment and threats in Colorado
  • 15 cases of vandalism in Colorado
  • 1 physical assault on a Jewish individual in Colorado

Three specific incidents in the audit include:

  • Denver, Colo.:  The Washington Virginia Vale neighborhood in southeast Denver was blanketed with anti-Semitic and racist graffiti overnight on April 26, 2016. Three dozen vehicles, at least one home, neighborhood streets, streets signs and additional property were vandalized. The graffiti included swastikas and the message “Kill Jews.” The incident happened during Passover in a neighborhood with many Jewish residents and Jewish institutions.
  • Erie, Colo.:  A Jewish teacher in Erie had anti-Semitic hate speech written on her classroom dry erase board on at least two occasions. (May 2016)
  • Fort Collins, Colo.:  A Jewish blogger and journalist received hundreds of threats and anti-Semitic comments on Twitter. In addition, his personal contact information was published on a neo-Nazi website. (June 2016)

Colorado is not alone in experiencing an increase in anti-Semitism. Anti-Semitic incidents in the U.S. surged more than one-third in 2016 and have jumped 86 percent in the first quarter of 2017, according to the ADL Audit.

In 2016, there was a 34 percent year-over-year increase in incidents – assaults, vandalism, and harassment – with a total of 1,266 acts targeting Jews and Jewish institutions. Nearly 30 percent of these incidents (369) occurred in November and December. The surge has continued during the first three months of 2017, with preliminary reports of another 541 incidents, putting this year on pace for more than 2,000 incidents. Americans of all faiths have felt the increase and in a poll ADL released earlier this month a majority said they are concerned about violence in the U.S. directed at Jews.

“There’s been a significant, sustained increase in anti-Semitic activity since the start of 2016 and what’s most concerning is the fact that the numbers have accelerated over the past five months,” said ADL CEO Jonathan A. Greenblatt. “Clearly, we have work to do and need to bring more urgency to the fight. At ADL, we will use every resource available to put a stop to anti-Semitism. But we also need more leaders to speak out against this cancer of hate and more action at all levels to counter anti-Semitism.”

In the first quarter of 2017, preliminary reports of the 541 anti-Semitic incidents included:

  • 380 harassment incidents, including 161 bomb threats, an increase of 127 percent over the same quarter in 2016;
  • 155 vandalism incidents, including three cemetery desecrations, an increase of 36 percent;
  • Six physical assault incidents, a decrease of 40 percent.

In 2016, the 1,266 anti-Semitic incidents included:

  • 720 harassment and threat incidents, an increase of 41 percent over 2015;
  • 510 vandalism incidents, an increase of 35 percent;
  • 36 physical assault incidents, a decrease of 35 percent.

The incidents were felt across the country, but continuing a consistent trend, the states with the highest number of incidents tend to be those with large Jewish populations. These include California (211 in 2016 and 87 in Q1 2017), New York (199 in 2016 and 97 in Q1 2017), New Jersey (157 in 2016 and 24 in Q1 2017), Florida (137 in 2016 and 41 in Q1 2017), and Massachusetts (125 and 38 in Q1 2017).

The 2016 presidential election and the heightened political atmosphere played a role in the increase. There were 34 incidents linked to the election. For example, in Denver, graffiti posted in May 2016 said “Kill the Jews, Vote Trump.” In November, a St. Petersburg, Fla., man was accosted by someone who told him “Trump is going to finish what Hitler started.”

Incidents on college campuses remained mostly flat, but anti-Semitic incidents at non-Jewish elementary, middle, and high schools increased 106 percent, from 114 in 2015 to 235 in 2016. This increase accelerated in Q1 2017, when 95 incidents were reported.

“Schools are a microcosm of the country,” Greenblatt said. “Children absorb messages from their parents and the media, and bring them into their schools and playgrounds. We are very concerned the next generation is internalizing messages of intolerance and bigotry.”

“These incidents need to be seen in the context of a general resurgence of white supremacist activity in the United States,” said Oren Segal, director of the ADL Center on Extremism. “Extremists and anti-Semites feel emboldened and are using technology in new ways to spread their hatred and to impact the Jewish community on and off line.” Incidents in 2016 and Q1 2017 included network printer hacks and the use of source-masking technology to make it easier to harass Jews anonymously. “The majority of anti-Semitic incidents are not carried out by organized extremists, as the bomb threats in 2017 demonstrate. Anti-Semitism is not the sole domain of any one group, and needs to be challenged wherever and whenever it arises.”

ADL has been tracking anti-Semitic incidents in the United States since 1979. The audit includes both criminal and non-criminal incidents acts of harassment and intimidation, including distribution of hate propaganda, threats and slurs.  Compiled using information provided by victims, law enforcement and community leaders and evaluated by ADL’s professional staff, the Audit provides an annual snapshot of one specific aspect of a nationwide problem while identifying possible trends or changes in the types of activity reported. This information assists ADL in developing and enhancing its programs to counter and prevent the spread of anti-Semitism and other forms of bigotry.

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. Follow us on Twitter: @ADLDenver, @ADL_News

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