South Florida Anti-Semitism Declined In 2011

Nov 1, 2012

Anti-Jewish behavior is at a 20-year low in the United States, according to the Anti-Defamation League's latest Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents, but the Florida numbers have barely budged.

Mixed Report: Anti-Semitism incidents declined in 20121 but trends remain disturbing.

ADL, which characterizes itself as the "911 of the Jewish community," received 111 reports of assault, vandalism and harassment in Florida in 2011, only five less than in the previous year. The audit is a compilation of those reported incidents and others culled from news reports.

"It’s not scientific," said ADL attorney David Barkey. "It's anecdotal. It's a snapshot that helps us identify trends."

There are a couple of trends in Florida. One is the rise of anti-Semitic bullying in school and on-line, which ADL attributes tentatively to increasing incivility in public life:

ADL also continues to receive a distressing number of complaints about children, adolescents and teenagers engaging in anti-Semitic behavior, both on and off school grounds. These incidents include physical assaults, threats of violence, and verbal and written taunts promoting anti-Semitic stereotypes or evoking disturbing Holocaust themes. As public awareness of bullying incidents that alienate and pose real danger to our youth increases, so must recognition of the anti-Semitism that in many cases drives or exacerbates these incidents.

The other trend, perhaps more significant, is the geographic shift of anti-Semitism away from South Florida.  According to the audit, 56 percent of the reported incidents took place in South Florida in 2011, compared with 70 percent of the statewide total in 2010.

However, said Barkey of the ADL, "there are six counties in Florida where there had never been an anti-Semitic incident reported and now we have incidents reported. So, that tells us we need to do some work in those counties."

ADL conducts diversity and sensitivity programs in schools and believes -- though, it admits, without proof -- they help reduce the problem. But absolute causes and effects are difficult to identify in the fight against anti-Semitism.

South Florida victims from 2011 included a Jewish middle school student in Boca Raton who had to be hospitalized for the beating he suffered after reporting to his teachers that he was being harassed.  There was also an oddly heart-warming incident in the Central Florida town of Mt. Dora where a synagogue was vandalized with graffiti. According to an Orlando Sentinel story, the whole community came together to help clean up the synagogue and that earned Mt. Dora a "community of respect" designation from ADL.

Florida had the fourth greatest number of anti-Semitic incidents in 2011, according to the ADL list.

Five states reported no incidents all. Those were  Kentucky, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming.