The United States’ recent rise in antisemitic incidents began in early May. Incidents such as Holocaust memorials being defaced and hateful messages like “welcome to Treblinka” being scrawled inside residence blocks were becoming more frequent, in addition to other, well-publicised incidents.
It was reported on 1st June that police were investigating two incidents of vandalism that took place at Harvard University’s Hillel group’s Reisman Center in the Rosovsky Hall campus building. In one incident, a Palestinian Authority flag which bore anti-police slogans was zip-tied to the front door of Rosovsky Hall. The other incident saw one of the hall’s windows shattered. Harvard Hillel’s Rabbi Jonah C. Steinberg said: “The essence of Harvard Hillel is a welcoming, inclusive, and resilient togetherness, which I regard as indomitable in the face of hatred and violence.”
Harvard University President, Larry Bacow condemned the antisemitic acts perpetrated against the Jewish group. Mr Bacow said: “As the words of Revered Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. remind us, ‘injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.’ It is our collective responsibility to speak out and condemn such acts of hatred and bigotry. Let us work together to build a better Harvard and a better nation.”
The University of Toledo was another university that saw an antisemitic incident, this time in the form of a swastika spray-painted on its pavement. Reported on 3rd June, police said it was not clear who committed the act of vandalism. “Acts that promote hate and seek to make members of our campus feel unsafe and unwelcome have absolutely no place in our community,” said the University of Toledo’s Hillel group. “We are engaging with the university administration, including Student Affairs, and will continue to work with our students, alumni, and administration to ensure our campus remains a safe place for Jewish students to live, study and celebrate Jewish life.”
Elsewhere, a Zoom lecture last week hosted by the City University of New York was infiltrated by protestors who made antisemitic comments, stating that Israel used the Holocaust as a “tool.” A Zoombomber wrote: “The Holocaust has been used as a tool. The fear of antisemitism as the fear of ‘this could happen again’ is being used pre-emptively to oppress and kill others.”
Campaign Against Antisemitism has previously reported on the phenomenon of ‘Zoom bombing’ and has urged communal institutions to take precautions to safeguard against antisemitic disruption of online events.
Universities have not been the only recipients of antisemitic vandalism, as synagogues, private establishments and public property have also sadly been targets.
Antisemitic graffiti was discovered on buildings in Chicago’s Lake View neighborhood, including an offensive caricature of a Jewish man with horns and exaggerated facial features. Dan Goldwin, Executive Director of Public Affairs for the Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Chicago, said: “There’s enough that divides us. We need to find some things that unite us. What happened here a path a block from this synagogue is not going to help.”
In San Francisco, Manny’s Café, a Jewish-owned restaurant, was defaced with graffiti bearing the words “Racist Pigz,” “Zionist Pigz,” and Free Palestine.
Elsewhere, police are also investigating after two synagogues in Arizona were desecrated in under a month. In late May, a rock was thrown through the glass door of the Congregation Chaverim, smashing it, and last week, the Chabad on River synagogue was vandalised with the antisemitic slur “dirty kyke” and daubed with a red swastika. On Twitter, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey wrote: “This is terrible. Antisemitism has NO place in Arizona and this behaviour cannot be tolerated. We are ensuring the authorities are aware of this hateful act. Those responsible must be held accountable. Arizona stands with those of the Jewish faith.”
Worryingly, incidents have not been limited to antisemitic graffiti, but have spread to violent attacks as well.
In New York, police are searching for three suspects on motorcycles involved with an antisemitic hate crime and attempted robbery which took place at the start of the month. The men demanded money from the twenty-one-year-old Jewish victim, who then proceeded to call the police. At this point, the men on motorcycles stole his kippah and drove off.
It was also reported last week that six Jewish teenagers were shot with paintball guns in Beachwood, Ohio, although police are not yet treating this as a hate crime.
However, Jewish groups and their allies have been standing up to such hateful bigotry. In addition to recent rallies in Connecticut, Florida, and Michigan, others have been held in North Carolina and Ohio.
In Raleigh, North Carolina, the event titled an “Evening of Unity, Solidarity and Prayer” was organised by Rabbi Zalmy Dubinsky of Chabad Young Professionals Raleigh. Rabbi Dubinsky said: “There’s a lot of Wikipedia pages of people throughout history and nations throughout history that have tried to destroy the Jewish people, and they’re nothing but footnotes in history.” He added. But here, ‘’am Yisrael chai’, we’re alive, we’re well and we’re proud, and we will stay that way.”
In Cincinnati, Ohio, weeks after bakers from Greater Cincinnati were joined by colleagues around the world to fundraise for a Holocaust museum in the Ohio city, residents held a rally against antisemitism called “Under the Tent.” Zahava Rendler, a Holocaust survivor, spoke of her experiences and her resilience. She said: “My name and religion were taken away from me. I was treated like an animal, forced into hiding, separated from my parents and sister,” before adding: “But I survived…now, with rising antisemitism around the world, I’m not afraid…I’m not a victim anymore.”
According to new research conducted by the ADL, antisemitic incidents in the United States were more than double in May 2021 than they were in May 2020.