Last year included an extraordinarily high number of local anti-Semitic incidents, with a 60% rise in reports over 2015.

The Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) of the Milwaukee Jewish Federation just completed its 2016 Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents. Mirroring a dramatic rise in anti-Semitism across the globe, and increased acts and expressions of bigotry surrounding the U.S. presidential campaign, last year included an extraordinarily high number of local anti-Semitic incidents.

“We should all be vigilant against this rise in hate and extremism,” said JCRC Director Elana Kahn. “We see from history that when communities allow people to be targeted based on their race, religion, ethnicity, gender, sexuality or other identity markers, terrible things can happen.”

While it is common that many incidents go unreported, the JCRC haa observed a Jewish community that feels increasingly targeted through harassment, vandalism, and expression, both written and verbal.

JCRC noted that continued anti-Semitic harassment and verbal expressions among middle and high school students, often takes the form of jokes, pranks, teasing, and bullying. Last year, there were more reports of anti-Semitism on college campuses.

“The rhetoric around the presidential election not only legitimized bigotry against all minorities, as we’ve seen through a variety of statistics, but also included specific coded and overt anti-Semitic expressions. That climate on the national level affects the local community too,” said Ann Jacobs, chair of the JCRC’s Anti-Semitism Task Force.

One common trend was the increased incidents of swastika graffiti on public and private property.

After many years of more guarded and coded language, the JCRC observed an increase in outright anti-Semitic slurs. While the organization stated it would continue to monitor the situation, it strongly encouraged individuals and institutions to report all incidents. These reports would be ckept confidential.

Each reported incident was corroborated and reviewed before any action is taken. The audit was reviewed by the JCRC’s Anti-Semitism & Constitutional Law Task Force, and the JCRC Board before the final approval process of the JCRC Board.

The JCRC has been particularly pleased to work collaboratively with schools, law enforcement, and national agencies. Many of this year’s reported incidents were addressed or resolved with positive outcomes.

The report was released on February 20, and came on the same day that a Jewish Community Center in Whitefish Bay was evacuated. It was the second time in three weeks for a bomb threat to be made against the facility.

The Jewish Community Relations Council of the Milwaukee Jewish Federation envisions a just community that reflects American and Jewish values. Its mission is to speak as the representative of the Jewish community in Milwaukee on issues of public affairs and public policy by convening and mobilizing the Jewish community through education, advocacy, social justice, and support for Israel.

© Photo

Lee Matz