CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) released a breakdown of which North Carolina cities have had reports of anti-Semitic incidents so far in 2017.
The ADL released new data Thursday showing an increase in reports of anti-Semitic incidents in North Carolina in 2017 in comparison to 2016.
According to the Anti-Defamation League, North Carolina, Maryland, District of Columbia and Virginia have seen a spike of reported anti-Semitic incidents in 2017 compared to 2016. Officials also say there was an increase in the number of reported incidents following the "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville that happened in August.
The ADL says there were 15 reports of anti-Semitic incidents involving harassment or vandalism in North Carolina between Jan 1. and Sept. 30. Those numbers are compared to one reported incident in the state in 2016.
Charlotte has had the highest number of reported anti-Semitic incidents in North Carolina so far this year.
A spokesperson with the ADL gave WBTV a breakdown of the data, which cities and towns have had incidents:
- Charlotte: 5
- Asheville: 3
- Greensboro: 2
- Raleigh: 2
"These are anti-Semitic acts that are reported to us by victims or other citizens, by law enforcement," said Doron Ezickson.
Ezickson, the Washington Regional Director of the Anti-Defamation League, said "we believe there are two aspects to this – one of which relates to the environment currently – and the emboldening of people to express hate and the other is, I think, an increase understanding and sensitivity by people of the importance of reporting. So we do attribute the increase both to additional incidents but also to a greater awareness of the need to report."
In total, there have been a total of 1,299 anti-Semitic incidents including physical assaults, vandalism and attacks on Jewish institutions in 2017, according to the ADL. The ADL reported that the total "represents a 67 percent increase over the same period in 2016."
In September, someone drew a swastika in black marker on the back door of a Jewish's couple home in southwest Charlotte on Sept. 21.
The day before, the couple said they were in Temple for high holy Jewish days. They told WBTV that "on the most sacred days of the year, we spend all day basically praying in a Temple. We came home in the afternoon. Everything was fine. We left here at about quarter to five to go for cleansing of the sins. We were gone for less than an hour and a half."
While they were gone, someone drew a swastika on their glass door.
"It's a symbol of hate. With today's society's actions and all this hate, it just dumbfounds me" the man said. "We're outraged. We feel violated."
A few months prior, someone painted a swastika on the road in the same neighborhood and there was an arrow pointing to the same house where the swastika was drawn.
"When you live in a society where we're supposed to all have equal rights and we're supposed to be able to just be who we are and exercise those rights, any attempt – whether it's ill informed or a joke – any attempt to distinguish between people to send a message to people that impacts them by making them feel unsafe or unwelcome is not reflective of our democratic values," Ezickson told WBTV. "And to the extent that people don't understand the power of those symbols we need to educate them. To the extent that they do we need to hold them accountable when they're done in violation of law. Obviously a lot of hate symbols and hate speech happens that is protected under the 1st Amendment and we at the ADL recognize that."
Ezickson says "these incidents that we are talking about are acts of harassment or vandalism which really are unacceptable and are often times intended to intimidate. But whether they are intended to or not, often have that impact."
The ADL says the national increase of reports anti-Semitic incidents are coming from different locations - neighborhoods to college campuses.
"The campuses we know are the result of an affirmative strategy by several white supremacists and neo-nazi groups to target campuses and we expect that to continue and potentially increase," Ezickson said. "Schools we think - it's a complex problem of what kids are repeating or what they think they're being.. somehow expressing things they probably don't even understand when they do it. They make a statement or draw a symbol – obviously young kids probably have no understanding of what they're actually doing but that's also an opportunity for education."
"So we are particularly concerned about incidents that we see in schools and on campuses and they also occur in neighborhoods against religious institutions and the like. We're seeing it in a lot of different context."
But why now?
"For the last 18 months to two years we have seen an emboldening of racists and white supremacists individuals and the expression of their ideologies," Ezickson said. "It was happening first online and we vigorously monitored all of the harassment and the hate that was being sent and shared online. And then the best evidence of the emboldening is that people those people who were previously anonymous online decided to actually appear in person."
The ADL says the events in Charlottesville demonstrate that best.
"We saw that most dramatically in May in Charlottesville. We saw the Klan come to Charlottesville a second time over the summer and then we had the tragic incidents in August in Charlottesville," he said. "That represented something new in our country where people were not only willing to express hate online, they were willing to come out in public and advocate for their ideologies. And communities have to respond to that. And critical to being able to respond to that is understanding the underlying factors: how often are these incidents happening? Who is being targeted and we at the ADL will continue to bring that to the public's attention."
"We do a great deal of outreach," said Sam Nadler of Hope of Israel Congregation in Ballantyne.
Nadler, the Congregation Leader, says "the real issue that we deal with here as a community is to understand that anti-Semitism like all hatred against any people is something that is contrary to God and is rebellion to God and so those who are ignorant of God's will might even use God's name to attempt to justify their evil deeds and immorality ."
Nadler says the increase in reported incidents is telling.
"I think it's something that should grab our attention," Nadler said. "One incident of anti-Semitic activity is one too many and we want to be on our guard against such matters. But that being said, we have to be careful of any over reaction – in other words we have to love our enemies even if it means helping them understand that what they're doing isn't perhaps illegal as certainly immoral."