Reports of anti-Semitic hate crimes declined by 13 percent nationwide in 2011, but California continues to lead in vandalism, harassment, and assault against Jews, according to an audit released Wednesday by the Anti-Defamation League.
A total of 1,080 incidents were reported across the U.S. last year, compared to 1,239 recorded in 2010, the lowest number of anti-Semitic incidents recorded by ADL in the past two decades, organization leaders said.
"The decline shows that we have made progress as a society in confronting anti-Semitism and pushing it to the far fringes, making expressions of anti-Jewish hatred unacceptable," ADL's national director Abraham Foxman, said in a statement.
In California, the number of incidents against Jews declined by 21 percent, from 297 to 235. That includes 175 threats, 54 acts of vandalism, and 6 assaults. The states with the largest Jewish communities showed the most hate crimes: New York reported 195, New Jersey followed with 144 and Florida with 111.
But while the numbers have decreased, the types of acts were no less hateful, according to the ADL.
Among the most persistent is school bullying against Jewish children and teens who report harassment and intimidation by peers, said Amanda Susskind, regional director of the Pacific Southwest Region of the ADL, which serves Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernardino and Kern counties.
"The continuing trend we see is schoolchildren being victimized either at school, online or on playgrounds with casual epithets,' Susskind said. "Kids are more willing to call out anti-Jewish slurs."
Last year, three Calabasas High students were arrested on suspicion of vandalism after they admitted to spray-painting anti-Semitic swastikas and racist insults around the school.
The graffiti included statements against African-Americans and profanities painted on the school's doors, walls, sidewalks and a stop sign. The incident occurred the week before a Holocaust survivor was scheduled to speak at the school.
And this summer, a 43-year- old Northridge woman plead guilty to contributing to the delinquency of a minor when she helped her daughter and friends smear human feces on a car and scrawl swastikas in syrup at the homes of two of the girls' former friends.
But Susskind and others say hate speech has really increased online and in social media.
"These declining numbers, while promising, must nevertheless be viewed in the context of other factors, including online expressions of anti- Semitism that are impossible to quantify and often go unchecked," Foxman said.
Online comments by the public on mainstream news media sites can be especially hateful.
"Every time there's an opinion piece on Israel, people just let loose and it's anonymous," Susskind said.
"I don't know what the answer is," Susskind said of stopping online comments. "We're a civil rights organization and proponents of the First Amendment, but there have been occasions when we asked mainstream media to take something down."
The ADL's audit comes a week after the Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations released its annual report, which found that overall hate crimes rose 15 percent. Many of the crimes were motivated by discrimination toward African Americans, lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender people.
The same report found that religion-motivated hate crimes also increased by 24 percent -- and of those overall crimes about three-quarters were directed toward Jews and Jewish institutions.
Susskind said despite the continued evidence of anti- Semitic attitudes, the United States compares well among most countries for its tolerance.
"The huge vast majority of Americans are extremely tolerant and part of what we do right is when these incidents occur, we shine a light on it," Susskind said.
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BEFORE YOU GO
Comedian Jon Lovitz helped get the word out about three Calabasas High students' anti-semitic vandalism last year. His tweets on the story from 2011: