Report: Antisemitic incidents in Georgia more than doubled in 2021

210923-Marietta-Claudia Rolam, wrapped in the Israeli flag,  protests outside of the Cobb County School Board meeting Thursday evening, Sept. 23, 2021, after anti-semitic vandalism was discovered at two Cobb County High Schools. Rolam is a member of Temple Emanuel in Atlanta. Ben Gray for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Ben Gray

Combined ShapeCaption
210923-Marietta-Claudia Rolam, wrapped in the Israeli flag, protests outside of the Cobb County School Board meeting Thursday evening, Sept. 23, 2021, after anti-semitic vandalism was discovered at two Cobb County High Schools. Rolam is a member of Temple Emanuel in Atlanta. Ben Gray for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Ben Gray

State’s increase part of a national trend of increased antisemitism, Anti-Defamation League says

Antisemitic incidents in Georgia rose 133% in 2021 compared to the prior year, according to a new report released Tuesday by the Anti-Defamation League.

The annual report tallied 49 reported episodes of vandalism and harassment aimed at Georgia’s Jewish community in the past year, the most of any Deep South state with the exception of Florida.

The higher numbers in Georgia reflect a national increase in antisemitism, according to the report. The ADL counted 2,717 incidents — a 34% increase — across the nation, including nearly three times the number of assaults over 2020.

The ADL said the national number is the most on record since the hate group watchdog started collecting data in 1979. The South saw a dramatic 74% one-year increase in reports, although New York, New Jersey and California led the nation in total number of incidents with 416, 370 and 367, respectively. New York alone was home to 51 reported assaults, up from 12 in 2020.

The reasons for the increase are multifaceted and confounding, the report said. Incidents of antisemitism spiked in the U.S. last spring during the crisis in Gaza between Israel and Hamas, the report said, but there were other spikes in 2021 not connected to events in Israel.

“When it comes to antisemitic activity in America, you cannot point to any single ideology or belief system, and in many cases, we simply don’t know the motivation,” said ADL National Director Jonathan Greenblatt. “But we do know that Jews are experiencing more antisemitic incidents than we have in this country in at least 40 years, and that’s a deeply troubling indicator of larger societal fissures.”

Georgia’s had no reported assaults, but some incidents garnered widespread attention in metro Atlanta. Last fall, antisemitic graffiti was discovered in bathrooms at two Cobb County high schools. There also were a number of reported incidents of antisemitic propaganda being distributed in metro neighborhoods.

Allison Padilla-Goodman, vice president of the ADL’s Southern Division, called the annual increase detailed in the report “disturbing and disheartening.”

“We must work harder than ever to provide anti-bias programming for schools and communities, hate crimes training for law enforcement, to advocate for local social justice initiatives, and to respond quickly to incidents,” she said. “It is clear that antisemitism is increasing and it is critical that the government supply security grants to help protect all targeted non-profit organizations.”

According to the report, incidents of antisemitism spiked in the U.S. last spring during the crisis in Gaza between Israel and Hamas.

Former Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens, who is a member of the ADL’s Southeastern board, said social media shares some of the blame for the increase in hostility. But he said a wide range of factors are behind the increase, which he said comes from both the far right and the far left.

“You’ve got folks on the far left that view Jews as wanting to take over the world,” Olens said. “Then you have folks on the right who view Jews as an inferior race that should be removed from the Earth.”

But Olens said it is important to recognize that incidents of hate are rising for other groups as well.

“While the majority of the incidents involve Jews, there has similarly been an increase in African Americas, Asians, Hispanics, LGBTQ … and Muslims,” he said. “Intolerance against one is intolerance for all.”

On the positive side, Olens praised the bipartisan hate crime legislation passed in 2020 by the Georgia General Assembly setting out enhanced criminal penalties for people who commit crimes against others based on their ethnicity, sexual orientation or religion.

Technology and novel approaches by white supremacists may be driving some of the numbers. Earlier this year, the ADL warned that one hate group was monetizing antisemitism by taking donations while livestreaming their propaganda distribution on the internet. Another group set goals for its members for vandalization and leafletting, according to leaked internet chats.