San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore pauses during a press conference outside Chabad of Poway.
San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore pauses during a press conference outside Chabad of Poway following the shooting on April 27, 2019. Photo by Chris Stone

Jews in the United States suffered the largest number of anti-Semitic incidents last year since the Anti-Defamation League began collecting records 40 years ago, the racism watchdog said on Tuesday.

The 2,107 anti-Semitic incidents recorded in 2019 in the United States included deadly attacks by gunmen at a Chabad of Poway and a New Jersey kosher grocery store, and a fatal stabbing at a rabbi’s home in New York.

It marked a 12% rise from 1,879 incidents in 2018. Previously, the highest number was recorded in 1994, when the ADL reported multiple unsolved arsons, cross burnings and a drive-by shooting.

The group’s audit of anti-Semitic incidents from 2019 counted 1,127 cases of harassment, 61 cases of physical assaults and 919 instances of vandalism. More than half of the assaults took place in New York City.

“This was a year of unprecedented anti-Semitic activity, a time when many Jewish communities across the country had direct encounters with hate,” ADL Chief Executive Officer Jonathan Greenblatt said.

In 2019, California saw 186 incidents of harassment, 35 incidents of vandalism and 9 assaults, including one death and three injured victims at Chabad of Poway.

“The San Diego Jewish community, and the greater San Diego community, saw firsthand the impact of this rising tide of violent anti-Semitism in 2019,” said Tammy Gillies, ADL San Diego’s regional director. “Even now, just days after we marked the one-year anniversary of the Chabad of Poway shooting, men were seen shopping in Santee grocery stores with a Klan hood and swastika mask.”

“Anti-Semitism continues to spread and threaten communities across the country, including San Diego,” she said. “We must remain vigilant against antisemitism and all forms of hate.”

In recent weeks the ADL has issued warnings of a continuing surge in incidents, saying conspiracy theories connected to the coronavirus outbreak could worsen anti-Semitism in the United States.

Greenblatt has also in the past partly blamed President Donald Trump for the rise in anti-Semitism, saying Trump should have done more to condemn incidents, including a far-right demonstration in Virginia in 2017 at which protesters chanted anti-Jewish slogans. One counter-protester was killed.

Among last year’s attacks, two gunmen killed a police officer and three bystanders before storming a kosher supermarket in New Jersey. Five people were wounded, one of whom later died, when an attacker broke into a rabbi’s house and stabbed Hanukkah celebrants in Rockland County, north of New York City.

In late 2018, a gunman killed 11 worshipers at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh in the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in U.S. history.

“We plan to work with members of Congress and other elected officials this year to ensure that funding is in place and that all states mandate Holocaust education, which can serve as an effective deterrent for future acts of hate,” the Greenblatt said on Tuesday.

Updated at 1:25 p.m. on Tuesday, May 12, 2020

— From Staff and Wire Reports

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.