In 2007, there were 1,357 incidents of vandalism, harassment and other acts of hate against Jewish individuals, property or communal institutions throughout the United States, according to ADL's annual Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents. That represented a 13 percent decline from 2006, and a drop of nearly 35 percent from 2004.
Barry Morrison, Eastern Pennsylvania-Delaware regional director, cautioned that although the numbers are going down, Jews cannot afford to be complacent.
"Clearly, anti-Semitism remains a fixture of American society," said Morrison.
The study, issued March 5, also reported that Pennsylvania had 99 anti-Semitic incidents in 2007, up from 94 in 2006. While the statewide numbers are relatively close, Pennsylvania saw a significant rise in vandalism from 26 such acts in 2006 to 44 in 2007. (Nationally, there was an 8 percent drop in vandalism.)
"This tells us that efforts have to be stepped up to protect Jewish institutions and Jewish property," said Morrison.
While Morrison said that there are no specific numbers for the Greater Philadelphia area, he did note that a "large percentage of incidents that occur in Pennsylvania occur in the Philadelphia region."
The report describes an anti-Semitic "incident" as violence, vandalism, threats, distribution of hate propaganda, verbal slurs or harassment. The audit included data from 40 states and the District of Colombia, as well as statistics gathered by the ADL.
Although it is good news to see the overall numbers declining, they do not represent the actual number of anti-Semitic acts because a certain number always go unreported, said Morrison.
He also mentioned that statistics are "cold" and can't really encompass the effect that an anti-Semitic episode may have on a victim.
"Each and every incident takes a toll on the Jewish community and their sense of security and well-being," said Morrison. "There's always the potential for a more serious incident to occur. If these incidents are not taken more seriously, they can escalate."
While there were no serious acts of violence against Jews last year, a shooting in 2006 at the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle killed Pamela Waechter and injured five others.
"Jews have been killed in this country for being Jews," said Morrison.
The report also cited that swastikas were used "hundreds" of times on buildings, synagogues, cemeteries and private homes. Perhaps the most egregious incident occurred in September when a swastika that spanned several acres was carved into a cornfield in Mercer County, N.J. It was so large that it was only visible from the sky.
Are Schools at Risk?
Schools also tend to be a place where anti-Semitism occurs with frequency. There were 197 anti-Semitic acts in middle and high schools in 2007, up from 193 in 2006. Occurrences included bullying, assaults, name-calling and hateful words or symbols written on desks or walls.
College campuses saw 81 incidents in 2007, down slightly more than 20 percent from 2005. Still, the acts this year have proven to be particularly brazen. At a Jewish center at Florida Atlantic University, for example, the word "ovens" was scratched into the outside wall next to an arrow pointing to the entrance.
Morrison made sure to caution that the ADL survey is only part of the study of anti-Semitism in America, and is far from the final word on the subject.
"It would be unwise to think of this audit, by itself, as the definitive measure of anti-Semitism in the United States today," said Morrison. "This audit is a useful tool — but only a tool."