2016 was a horrible year for anti-Semitic hate crimes. 2017 is much worse.

2016 was a banner year for anti-Jewish hatred.

CREDIT: AP /Jacqueline Larma
CREDIT: AP /Jacqueline Larma

New data suggests incidents of anti-Semitic hatred have spiked compared to this time last year, an ominous shift that advocates say signals a multi-year increase of vitriol directed at American Jews.

According to a report published on Monday by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), 541 anti-Semitic incidents have occurred so far this year — an 86 percent increase compared to the same period in 2016.

This includes 161 highly-publicized bomb threats made against Jewish Community Centers and schools beginning in January. The FBI and foreign authorities recently arrested two different men — one in Missouri and one Israel — suspected to be the main culprits behind the various waves of threats that sparked mass evacuations at Jewish institutions across the country.

But even excluding the bomb threats, the numbers for 2017 are unsettlingly high. Overall, the report says 380 “harassment incidents” have already occurred this year (127 percent more than last year), as well as 155 incidents of anti-Jewish vandalism — including three acts of cemetery desecration — an increase of 36 percent. And while physical assaults were down compared to the first quarter of 2016, anti-Semitic incidents at non-Jewish schools increased 106 percent.

“There’s been a significant, sustained increase in anti-Semitic activity since the start of 2016 and what’s most concerning is the fact that the numbers have accelerated over the past five months,” ADL CEO Jonathan A. Greenblatt said in a statement. “Clearly, we have work to do and need to bring more urgency to the fight.”

Representatives from the ADL said they have tracked anti-Semitic hatred since 1979, but noted that the new numbers are especially disturbing given that 2016 was already an unusually volatile year for hatred enacted against Jews. They pointed to tensions surrounding the election as one of the driving forces behind last year’s increase, citing 34 incidents explicitly tied to the campaign—many of which mentioned then-candidate Donald Trump. Nearly 30 percent of those incidents — 369 — occurred in November and December following Trump’s election, and various news outlets noted the sharp increase in the use of anti-Semitic rhetoric but people claiming to be his supporters in 2016.

The report suggests this trend has only worsened in 2017, an assessment that roughly correlates with ThinkProgress’ own effort to track hate incidents from November 9, 2016 to February 10 if this year. Our report found that Jews were the group most impacted by a general wave of hate that swept the country after Trump’s victory, with 70 anti-Semitic incidents occurring during that three-month stretch.

“These incidents need to be seen in the context of a general resurgence of white supremacist activity in the United States,” Oren Segal, director of ADL’s Center on Extremism, said in a statement. “Extremists and anti-Semites feel emboldened and are using technology in new ways to spread their hatred and to impact the Jewish community on and off line…The majority of anti-Semitic incidents are not carried out by organized extremists, as the bomb threats in 2017 demonstrate. Anti-Semitism is not the sole domain of any one group, and needs to be challenged wherever and whenever it arises.”

The ADL and other Jewish groups have expressed frustration with the lack of attention paid to the issue by political leaders such as President Trump, who was criticized for repeatedly dodging chances to condemn anti-Semitism before finally speaking out earlier this year. The White House was also criticized for not mentioning Jews in its statement on Holocaust Remembrance Day in February, a decision they defended by noting that others were also killed during Adolf Hitler’s reign as the leader of Nazi Germany (Hitler’s regime committed the worst genocide in history against the Jewish people).

Things only worsened earlier this month, when White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer compared Hitler favorably to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, claiming that the German tyrant who murdered millions in concentration camps using gas chambers “didn’t even sink to using chemical weapons.” The statement was widely decried for being an obvious falsehood, and Spicer has since apologized.