PUBLIC SAFETY FACILITY — While California may have had the highest number of anti-Semitic attacks in 2010 with 297, Santa Monica police reported only two last year, according to hate crimes data released this week by Anti-Defamation League and the SMPD.
The hate crimes against the Jewish faith both involved vandalism, said SMPD Sgt. Richard Lewis.
In 2010 the SMPD reported five hate crimes: one “simple assault” relating to race against an African American and four reports of vandalism, including written slurs against Persians, African Americans and two against the Jewish religion.
That was a slight increase from a year prior. In 2009, there were three reported hate crimes in Santa Monica, including one aggravated assault related to sexual orientation, one “simple assault” relating to race (an Hispanic victim) and on report of vandalism targeting African Americans.
The Anti-Defamation League’s annual audit, which is comprised of data from 45 states and the District of Columbia, including official crime statistics as well as information provided to the league’s regional officers by victims, law enforcement and community leaders, found that there were a total of 1,239 incidents of assault, vandalism and harassment reported during the calendar year.
That number increased slightly from 2009, when there were 1,211 incidents reported. It is the first increase reported by the league since numbers hit a record high in 2004, when the U.S. experienced 1,821 incidents of anti-Semitism.
The league audit tracks incidents of vandalism, harassment and physical assaults against Jews, their property and community institutions across the U.S.
California had the highest number of incidents, followed by New York (205), New Jersey (130) and Florida (116 incidents), according to the audit. These states also have large Jewish populations.
“While we have come a long way in society as Jews have been accepted into the mainstream, America is still not immune to anti-Semitism and bigotry,” said Abraham H. Foxman, the league’s national director.
“The good news is that we have continued to enjoy a period of relative calm, where the overall numbers are mostly unchanged and the incidents isolated,” he said. “But the bad news is that for all our efforts to educate, to raise awareness and to legislate, anti-Jewish incidents remain a disturbing part of the American Jewish experience.”
The 2010 audit identified:
• 22 physical assaults (down from 29 in 2009);
• 900 cases of anti-Semitic harassment, threats and events (up from 760 in 2009);
• 317 cases of anti-Semitic vandalism (down from 422 in 2009).
These incidents include a high school party in a California home where one boy said to another, “you kike” and punched him in the face, breaking his jaw and another where vandals spray painted anti-Semitic graffiti on the wall of a Jewish institution in California which included a swastika with “88,” which is a commonly used number symbol meaning “Heil Hitler.”
Rabbi Neil Comess-Daniels of Santa Monica-based Beth Shir Shalom said his members feel relatively safe in Santa Monica and that there is a good relationship between those of the Jewish faith, City Hall and the SMPD.
“We are not immune to [anti-Semitic attacks], but the reality is that we always know the way in which we respond is very important and we have always been able to respond arm-in-arm with our [non-Jewish] neighbors and certainly local government and city officials,” the rabbi said.
Comess-Daniels said the community came together following the detonation of a homemade bomb outside of a Jewish temple in Santa Monica in April of this year. A transient was accused of detonating the bomb, which sent a steel pipe encased in concrete into the side of a home near the Chabad House, local headquarters of the ultra-Orthodox Lubavitch sect.
“The chief of police called me as I was heading in to work to let me know what they were doing in response,” Comess-Daniels said. “I’m assuming I wasn’t the only rabbi called. He wanted us to all know the police were taking good care of it.”
For more information on the league’s audit, go to www.adl.org/ The Los Angeles office can be contacted at (310) 446-2000.