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‘Troubling’ number of anti-Semitic incidents recorded in Philadelphia region

Kosher market shooting

Responders work to clean up the scene of a shooting that left multiple dead at a kosher market on Dec. 11, 2018, in Jersey City. (Kevin Hagen/AP Photo)

A man etched two SS bolts, a Nazi symbol, into pillars at the Philadelphia Holocaust Memorial Plaza.

A student at a Delaware County middle school did the “Sieg Heil” Nazi salute in front of a Jewish classmate.

A man standing outside of a Bucks County public library shouted, “Jews and commies out of America” to passersby.

These are three of the 109 anti-Semitic incidents recorded in Pennsylvania in 2019 by the Anti-Defamation League. The total is part of a surge in cases in the region, and the second-highest recorded in the state since the ADL began performing annual audits of anti-Semitic activity in 1979.

“The data is certainly troubling,” said Shira Goodman, regional director of the ADL’s Philadelphia office.

The audit breaks the incidents into three categories: harassment, vandalism and assault.

In 2019, one assault, a confidential incident from August, was recorded in Pennsylvania. Nationally, the ADL counted 61 anti-Semitic assaults last year — the most ever recorded by the organization.

The rest of the anti-Semitic incidents in Pennsylvania were categorized as either harassment, such as the man outside the public library in Bucks County, or vandalism, such as the man who carved into the Holocaust memorial in Philadelphia.

Philadelphia had the most cases in the state, followed by Montgomery and Delaware counties.

Nationally, the ADL counted 2,107 anti-Semitic incidents across the U.S., a 12% increase over 2018 and the highest total since 1979.

Pennsylvania and New Jersey both ranked in the top five states that saw anti-Semitic incidents in 2019.

The ADL recorded 345 incidents in the Garden State in 2019 — the second-highest behind New York. Pennsylvania had the fifth most cases last year.

On average, the audit found as many as six anti-Semitic incidents in the U.S. for each day of the calendar year. That includes five deaths directly linked to anti-Semitic violence and 91 individuals who were targeted in physical assaults.

On April 27, on the last day of Passover, 19-year-old John Earnest allegedly fired his assault rifle into a synagogue near San Diego, killing a woman and injuring three more.

On Dec. 10, David Anderson and Francine Graham, a couple who authorities said expressed hatred of Jews, allegedly killed three people inside a kosher grocery store in Jersey City.

Anderson and Graham are also accused of fatally shooting a police officer during a chance meeting at a cemetery before opening fire inside the market.

Less than three weeks later, on Dec. 28, Grafton Thomas allegedly stabbed five people after breaking into the home of a rabbi outside New York City, who was hosting a Hanukkah party at the time. One of the victims, another rabbi, died from his injuries three months later.

Goodman, the ADL regional director, said a two-pronged approach is needed to reduce anti-Semitic violence in the area and nationwide.

“Fighting the hate with education, with real information, with the truth, and also making sure that it can’t escalate and that the people who would do harm are deprived of the ability to do so,” said Goodman.

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If you have experienced or witnessed an incident of bias, hatred or bigotry, you can report it to the ADL here.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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