Anti-Semitic attacks in Florida decline, while violent attacks in US double, ADL reports

In December 2018 in Boynton Beach someone spray-painted “Nazi” onto a truck belonging to a Jewish business owner.
In December 2018 in Boynton Beach someone spray-painted “Nazi” onto a truck belonging to a Jewish business owner. ADL

In 2018, there were 76 verified incidents of anti-Semitism in Florida — ranging from a Nazi symbol etched onto the building of a Jewish doctor to a rabbi who received a death threat via Facebook — the Anti-Defamation League reported Tuesday as part of the organization’s annual audit.

The number is down 22 percent from last year when there were 98 incidents of vandalism, assault and harassment across the state. While the number of vandalism and assault incidents stayed the same as last year — one assault and 27 incidents of vandalism — the number of non-violent harassment incidents dropped.

“Although Florida’s decline in non-criminal incidents of anti-Semitic harassment is encouraging, the absence of a similar drop in assaults and vandalism is troubling,” Sheri Zvi, ADL Florida regional director said in a statement. “No one should be a victim of anti-Semitism, but anti-Semitic assaults and vandalism in particular have an impact far beyond their individual targets, striking fear within the entire Jewish community and beyond.”

Nationwide, there were 1,879 anti-Semitic incidents in 2018, down 5 percent from the 1,986 incidents in 2017.

Though the number of overall incidents in Florida — and nationwide — went down, the number of violent attacks against the Jewish community across the United States doubled.

The audit comes only days after a gunman stormed into a California synagogue and began shooting. One person was killed and three more were injured. Authorities are considering hate crime charges in this case. These victims will be included in next year’s audit.

“Unfortunately, the horrific tragedy in San Diego County reminds us that anti-Semitism is virulently strong,” Jonathan Greenblatt, ADL’s CEO and national director, told the Associated Press.

In all, there were 39 anti-Semitic physical assaults in 2018 that involved 59 victims nationwide. That includes 11 people who were killed and the two people who were wounded when a gunman entered the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh in October. In 2017, there were 19 attacks.

In Florida, much of the anti-Semitic vandalism “focused in the political sphere, with the use of Nazi and Holocaust imagery,” the ADL said.

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In December 2018 a swastika was etched into a building owned by a Jewish doctor in Miami. ADL

“As we prepare for the 2020 election cycle, we call on all leaders, public officials, and candidates to firmly take a stance against any act of anti-Semitism or bigotry whether by supporters or opponents, because bigotry has no place in our civil discourse, ” Zvi said.

Among the incidents of vandalism: In November 2018, a swastika was spray-painted on a campaign sign for U.S. Rep. Ron Desantis, who was running for governor of Florida and later won, in Tallahassee. In August 2018, two campaign signs for Philip Levine, a Jewish gubernatorial candidate from Miami Beach, were vandalized with swastika graffiti in Tampa.

According to the ADL, the majority of this year’s incidents happened in South Florida, with 13 harassment and 11 vandalism incidents in Miami-Dade, 12 harassment and one vandalism incident in Broward and six harassment and five vandalism incidents in Palm Beach.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this article.

Carli Teproff grew up in Northeast Miami-Dade and graduated from Florida International University in 2003. She became a full-time reporter for the Miami Herald in 2005 and now covers breaking news.