Anti-Jewish hatred spiked last year in Georgia and the United States to the highest level recorded, according to a new report released Thursday by the Anti-Defamation League.
The annual report showing a 36% increase nationally in antisemitic incidents and a 63% increase in the state came as legislators are debating adding a definition of antisemitism to the state’s hate crime law.
“Whether you’re Jewish or not, the ongoing rise of antisemitic incidents in our region and nation should concern you,” said Eytan Davidson, who heads up the ADL’s Southeast office. “We know trends like this signal increased bigotry overall, and that’s a reality that threatens the well-being and security in every community. It’s incumbent upon us all to combat hate together, especially when we see extremist activity on the rise.”
The new report comes a few weeks after the ADL reported a similar spike in the spread of white supremacist propaganda, much of which also was aimed at Jews.
The new report tallied 3,697 incidents of anti-Jewish animus across the nation, including assaults, harassment and vandalism, which the ADL said was the highest number recorded since the organization began tracking incidents in 1979. In Georgia, the organization tallied 80 occurrences, up from 49 in 2021. Of those, 70 were classified as harassment and 10 were vandalism. No assaults were recorded.
Much of the antisemitic harassment in Georgia came in the form of flyers stuck on car windshields or thrown in resident’s yards. The distributions are part of an organized effort by a handful of activists allied with national hate groups that use such distributions to gain media attention and drive online donations and sales of antisemitic or Nazi-themed paraphernalia. Over the past year and into 2023, such flyers have been distributed widely around the metro Atlanta region, but also elsewhere in the state, including multiple incidents in Athens, Newnan, Macon and Savannah.
One such distribution last month in Sandy Springs and Dunwoody, areas with concentrated Jewish populations, landed in the yard of Esther Panitch, the only Jewish member of the Georgia House of Representatives. Panitch, D-Sandy Springs, took to Twitter and vowed to come after the perpetrators with “the weight of the state behind me.” Panitch drew immediate support from political leaders from both parties, including Gov. Brian Kemp who tweeted, “This kind of hate has no place in our state and the individuals responsible do not share Georgia’s values.”
The incident gave added momentum to House Bill 30, which seeks to add a definition of antisemitism to the state’s hate crimes law. The bill passed the House 136-22, but the bill hit a roadblock in the Senate Judiciary Committee when proposed changes to the definition and free speech concerns led to the bill being tabled. That changed Thursday when the language was added to House Bill 144, which was before the Senate Children and Families Committee. That committee approved the measure 6-2, sending it to the full Senate for a vote.
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