Lansing Avenue Jewish Cemetery vandalism (copy)

Red spray-painted images can be seen on objects in and around Lansing Avenue Jewish Cemetery at 3953 E. 57th St. in Cleveland in November 2020.

As national trends show anti-Semitic incidents are on the rise, the regional director of the Anti-Defamation League said the same can be found in Ohio.

According to the ADL’s “2021 Survey on Jewish Americans’ Experience with Anti-Semitism,” conducted by YouGov, a public opinion and data analytics firm and released last week, the United States saw its most reported anti-Semitic events in 2019 since the ADL started tracking in 1979.

James Pasch, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League Cleveland, told the Columbus Jewish News he believes the number will be higher for 2020, which is also mirrored in local events.

Those numbers include anti-Semitic incidents in Columbus, including threats, harassment and vandalism.

Details of incidents in Ohio can be found on the ADL’s H.E.A.T. map, which includes hate, extremist and anti-Semitic incidents by state. The nationwide list can be found at bit.ly/3mjNnjb.

While the H.E.A.T. map lists 36 anti-Semitic incidents in Ohio in 2020, the official number of events will be finalized in the coming weeks.

Pasch, James - Scott T. Morrison Discovery Photo.jpg

Pasch

Pasch, whose office serves Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia and Western Pennsylvania, said many reasons exist as to why there is an increase in hate incidents both locally and nationally – “which is why we need to reinforce the need for a whole-of-society approach to anti-Semitism, and that there isn’t one reason for its cause and there is not going to be one solution as its cure.

“And we need to make it clear, whether it appears on social media or at a synagogue, that anti-Semitism has no place in any of our communities,” he said. “We need corporate and government leaders to step up and ensure that it does not gain a foothold in society.”

In terms of national statistics in relation to Ohio’s experiences with anti-Semitism, Pasch said they go hand-in-hand. As anti-Semitic language and incidents rise nationwide, Ohio Jewish communities also feel those effects.

“For example, the Capitol riots were the culmination of four years of rhetoric that either incited hatred or emboldened domestic extremists, and there has been a failure to condemn white supremacists,” Pasch said. “So, you had Charlottesville in 2017 to the riots in the Capitol on Jan. 6 this year. Those two events bookend each other, and large incidents tend to filter down to the general attitudes and mentalities that we’ve seen on the local level.”

The study, released March 31, surveyed 500 Jewish American adults about their experiences with anti-Semitism, according to a news release:

• 59% feel less safe in the U.S. today than they were a decade ago

• 56% have heard anti-Semitic comments, slurs or threats targeting others in the past five years

• 49% were afraid of a violent attack at a synagogue

• 33% that have been harassed reported having trouble sleeping

• 36% had experienced some form of online harassment

• 31% have been called offensive names online

• 16% of those harassed said it affected their lives financially

• 13% have been physically threatened online

• 13% avoided identifying themselves as Jewish on social media

• 9% had been physically attacked or observed such an incident in the last five years because they are Jewish

Pasch said hateful behavior continues to spike across the board – from vandalism to harassment to physical assaults.

“That is why it is so important for the language to be called out from all sectors in our communities,” he said. “Whether you’re a government official or corporate executive, we cannot let anti-Semitic or hate-filled language fester in online spaces, in our gathering spaces. It has to be called out, wherever and whenever we see it. It might start with words, but it never stops with words.”

Considering the poll results, Pasch indicated a need for communities to band together, whether Jewish or not, and approach anti-Semitism as a societal problem. In February, the ADL announced its partnership with the Secure Community Network to monitor extremists and other threats to the Jewish community, providing information directly to law enforcement and other community stakeholders. Initiatives like that are a step in the right direction, he said.

“Every single person needs to understand the problem and needs to be part of the solution,” Pasch said. “We can’t let hateful comments slide by. And because of the significant rise in our society, we need to not just take notice, but also take action. When it comes to these statistics of why Jewish Americans are feeling this way, it is becoming part of our everyday existence as American Jews. That is why everyone needs to speak up – Jews and non-Jews alike – to say anti-Semitism has no place here.”

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