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Numerous anti-Semitic incidents reported across the country since Pittsburgh shooting

The Anti-Defamation League reports a 60 percent rise in anti-Semitic incidents.

Police tape wrapped around a traffic light pole out front of the Tree of Life Synagogue in Squirrel Hill outside of Pittsburgh. (Credit: Matthew Hatcher/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)
Police tape wrapped around a traffic light pole out front of the Tree of Life Synagogue in Squirrel Hill outside of Pittsburgh. (Credit: Matthew Hatcher/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

In the days since a hate-motivated mass shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue on Saturday left 11 worshipers dead, numerous anti-Semitic incidents have been reported across the country, marking an unprecedented increase in hate crimes against Jews.

Reports of anti-Semitic graffiti surfaced in multiple cities nationwide, including Philadelphia; Brooklyn; Calabasas, CA; Rochester, NY; Washington, D.C.; Manchester, NH; and Irvine, CA.

In Irvine, a vandal reportedly spray painted “Fuck Jews” on the side of the Beth Jacob synagogue early Wednesday morning.

Similarly in Brooklyn, a vandal drew a swastika and the n-word on a Brooklyn Heights brownstone Wednesday.

In Rochester, D.C., and Calabasas, swastikas were found on school and university grounds. In Philadelphia, similar graffiti was found on U.S. Navy property. And in Manchester, anti-Semitic graffiti was reported multiple times in the same neighborhood, just a few blocks away from one of the oldest temples in the state.

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A report by the Anti-Defamation League found a whopping 60 percent rise in anti-Semitic incidents from 2016 to 2017, “the largest single-year increase on record and the second highest number reported since ADL started tracking such data in 1979.” And the FBI’s most recent hate crime data reveals that more than half of anti-religious hate crimes in 2016 have been targeted toward Jews, who make up approximately 3 percent of the U.S population.

Such incidents follow years of anti-Semitic rhetoric by President Donald Trump and his administration, as well as that of several Republican candidates — rhetoric that allegedly motivated Florida resident Cesar Sayoc in his attempted bombings of the offices of several high-ranking Democrats and media figures last week.

“The reality is words have consequences,” George Selim, senior vice president of programs at the Anti-Defamation League told NPR on Monday. “When anti-Semitic rhetoric or dog whistling or rhetoric that’s of an extreme nature is really allowed in our public square without condemnation — especially from the highest leaders who are public officials — it really gives the green light to anti-Semites, bigots, xenophobes and Islamophobes to keep spouting it and acting on it.”

According to Selim, that’s exactly what happened in Pittsburgh, when gunman Robert Bowers allegedly yelled “All Jews must die,” before fatally shooting nearly a dozen congregants. Bowers had apparently taken issue with the Jewish community’s efforts to support refugees and, on social media, often peddled far-right conspiracy theories that claimed Jews were responsible for aiding the caravan of migrants headed to the U.S.-Mexico border from Central America.

Following the attack in Pittsburgh, more than 20,000 people signed a letter to Trump, telling him that he is not “welcome in Pittsburgh until you fully denounce white nationalism.” 

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But despite the increase in such incidents, Trump and Republicans have continued to spout anti-Semitic rhetoric, including smearing liberal Jewish philanthropist George Soros, warning that “Hollywood Liberals” like Jewish director Steven Spielberg are trying to “buy the midterm elections,” and continually touting “Christian values” (Vice President Mike Pence took this one step further Monday, when he invited a defrocked christian “rabbi” to a Michigan rally to lead a prayer for the victims in Pittsburgh).

The Trump administration signaled this week that it is unwilling to renew an Obama-era anti-domestic terror program that awards money to groups fighting extremism, including right-wing hate crimes. According to NBC News, the Department of Homeland Security does not plan to renew the program after its funding ends in July 2019, telling grantees that the funding was a “one-time” thing.