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Antisemitic incidents in Michigan increased by 21 percent in 2020

Posted at 9:35 AM, Apr 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-27 17:47:35-04

(WXYZ) — Cases of antisemitism in Michigan rose by 21 percent in 2020, according to the annual Audit of Antisemitic Incidents issued by the Anti-Defamation League.

ADL said antisemitic incidents have increased 240 percent in Michigan since 2016.

Michigan Regional Director Carolyn Normandin said the rise in antisemitism in Michigan is sobering.

“Any increase in antisemitic incidents is cause for concern, but this year’s data is compounded by year-after-year increases in Michigan,” Normandin said. “We urge community members to understand where this hate is originating from, and to call it out.”

Nationally, antisemitic incidents remained at historically high levels across the United States in 2020, with a total of 2,024 cases of assault, harassment and vandalism reported to ADL.

ADL said other incidents of hate are also on the rise in the state of Michigan. The Michigan ADL office received more than 170 reports of hateful incidents during 2020, which is an increase of more than 40% from the previous year.

Reports to the Michigan ADL office included white supremacist events and propaganda, as well as hateful actions against African Americans, Asian Americans, the LGBTQ+ community, and immigrants.

In 2020, ADL counted 51 antisemitic incidents in Michigan, a 21 percent increase from the 42 incidents recorded
in 2019.

ADL classifies all incidents into three categories: assault, harassment, and vandalism. Of the total incidents reported in 2020:

• Harassment: There were 44 harassment incidents, cases where one or more Jews reported feeling harassed by antisemitic language or actions. Acts of harassment increased by more than 37 percent from 32 in 2019.
• Vandalism: There were 7 vandalism incidents, cases where property was damaged in a manner that harmed or intimidated Jews. Swastikas, which are generally interpreted as symbols of antisemitic hatred, were present in a number of these incidents. Acts of antisemitic vandalism decreased 30 percent from 10 in 2019.
• Assault: There were no antisemitic assaults reported to the Michigan office in 2020. The year was dramatically impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, which led in some cases to Jews and other marginalized communities, especially Asian Americans, being blamed or scapegoated for spreading the virus.

"There were graves that were vandalized in Grand Rapids, there were protests and demonstrations outside a synagogue in Ann Arbor," she said, listing off a few of the memorable incidents, noting that in addition to events in the "real world" there were also a number of incidents that took place online.

"I think the harassment manifested itself with zoom-bombings," she said, referring to the practice where a person infiltrates a Zoom group to purposely disrupt it and spew hate.
The end result, according to Normandin, is less recourse.

"In cases like things that happen in a school or community, we usually can do something about it," she said. "We can get the swastika removed, we can have the vandalism repaired, we can bring a conversation into the school or into a community setting, with zoom bombing and a disruption of a loved one’s funeral, usually, that moment has passed."

ADL said it has a comprehensive approach to addressing antisemitic incidents and behavior, including prevention efforts through youth education. Additionally, ADL works to enact law that will improve prevention tactics and response to hate crimes.