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Report: Anti-Semitic incidents rose in Pa. last year

Written by Rachel McDevitt | Mar 5, 2018 6:14 AM
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A packed Luther Memorial Church where residents gathered for a solidarity event, focused on gathering after a bomb threat forced the evacuation of the York Jewish Community Center. (Photo: Gordon Rago, York Daily Record)

(Harrisburg) -- Anti-Semitic incidents have risen significantly in the commonwealth for the second straight year.

A report from the Anti-Defamation League shows they rose in four of the last five years after declining between 2008 and 2012.

The ADL's Nancy Baron-Baer says it's a troubling trend.

"In Pennsylvania the incidents of harassment went up ten percent. Incidents of vandalism went up 104 percent over 2016," she said.

Ninety-six anti-Semitic acts were reported across Pennsylvania last year, up 43 percent from 2016.

That figure includes bomb threats made to Jewish Community Centers in Harrisburg and York.

The ADL reports white supremacists have visited 18 colleges in Pennsylvania since the fall of 2016 in an attempt to recruit new members.

Fliers from such groups were found at Lebanon Valley College and Elizabethtown College.

"Probably the most disturbing part of all the statistics was, in fact, the huge increase in incidents in K-12 schools," Baron-Baer said.

Nearly two dozen events happened in schools last year, almost double the number from 2016.

However, Baron-Baer says it's likely children underreported instances of anti-Semitic bullying. 

She adds the report doesn't even touch on online harassment. 

Baron-Baer says the reasons for the increase in incidents could be varied. Some people seem more motivated to report in recent years, but there's also an increasingly divisive national dialogue. 

Hate groups may be feeling more emboldened. 

Baron-Baer says a rally in Charlottesville, Va. last August was one of the largest public displays of anti-Semitism and racism in many people's memories.

"And yet, the president's response was talking about good people on both sides--the famous quote," Baron-Baer said. "And we believe that's a serious failure of moral leadership and one of the low points in the entirety of his [Donald Trump's] presidency."

Baron-Baer says that kind of response encourages "the worst kinds of bigots in our society" to think their actions are acceptable. 

The ADL urges people to speak out when they see or hear something anti-Semitic and to report it to law enforcement. 

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