The widely reported posting of swastikas and pictures of Adolf Hitler on a dorm room door at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and the spray-painting of white supremacist graffiti on or near campus institutions serving Jews were part of a troubling increase in anti-Semitic incidents in 2016, said the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Milwaukee Jewish Federation.
The Jewish Community Relations Council on Monday released its annual audit of anti-Semitic incidents, which it said mirrors a dramatic rise in anti-Semitism across the globe and increased acts and expressions of bigotry surrounding the U.S. presidential campaign.
The audit counted 30 anti-Semitic incidents last year, mostly from the Milwaukee metropolitan area, but also including incidents elsewhere in the state that were reported to the agency. The total was three times that in 2012, the agency said.
The audit of 2016 incidents also noted a trend of increased incidents involving young people, including eight in schools and five on college campuses.
The audit was released a day before President Donald Trump condemned a spate of anti-Semitic incidents across the country — including 69 bomb threats at Jewish Community Centers over two months and the vandalism on Monday of a century-old Jewish cemetery in Missouri — after criticism that he had ignored many earlier opportunities to speak out.
“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,” Ann Jacobs, chair of the JCRC’s Anti-Semitism Task Force, said in a news release.
“We should all be vigilant against this rise in hate and extremism. 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,” said JCRC Director Elana Kahn.
The Southern Poverty Law Center reported receiving 1,094 reports of bias incidents nationally — 15 from Wisconsin — in the month after Trump’s election. Some 37 percent of the incidents referenced Trump; and 21 percent of those were anti-Semitic in nature. About 15 percent of the incidents occurred on college campuses.
Additional college campus incidents in the JCRC Milwaukee report included:
- Anti-Semitic posters sent to computer printers at UW-Madison and UW-Milwaukee, with swastikas framing the sentence: “White man, are you sick of Jews ruining the world…”
- A social media post about an incident at a Milwaukee university with a very small Jewish student body drew such comments as “(This university) caters to the rich Jewish kids of Milwaukee,” and “I hate Zionists.”
- A student displaying a swastika on her computer in a university library.
Incidents at K-12 schools included:
- A high school students saying: “We have to get rid of the Jews once and for all.”
- Middle school students taunting Jewish classmates by saying they planned to write in Adolf Hitler for president during a mock election.
- The defacing with swastikas of a Jewish high school student’s locker.
Kahn told the Cap Times that the trend of incidents involving young people is especially troubling.
“What that clearly points to is that young people are hearing these things at home, maybe without even knowing any Jewish people,” Kahn said.
But such incidents involving young people also present an opportunity for education, she added.
“It is an opportunity to talk about what it means to live in a diverse society where you are going to run into Muslims, you are going to run into LGBT people, you are going to run into Jews, you are going to run into African-Americans," she said.
The purpose of the audit is to identify where to focus educational efforts, Kahn said.
The audit is also a call to action in our own lives, she said. “What words come out of our mouths? How do we behave with our neighbors? What do we do when we hear of hateful incidents down the block?
“This is an opportunity to stand together and crowd out hate with solidarity and alliances.”