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Rising US Anti-Semitism In Plain View After Synagogue Attack

Attacks on Jews, online and offline, have been on the rise the past two years, making the synagogue shooting even more troubling to American Jews.
Posted at 6:28 PM, Oct 29, 2018

Jewish communities around the country are in mourning after a gunman killed 11 worshipers Saturday morning in a Pittsburgh synagogue. The attack is believed to be the deadliest ever against Jews in the U.S. And it comes at a time when anti-Semitic acts are already on the rise — making the event even more troubling to American Jews. 

"What happened yesterday will not break us, will not ruin us. We will continue to thrive and sing and worship and learn together," said Rabbi Jonathan Perlman during an interfaith gathering and vigil in Pittsburgh on Sunday.

"It's made me want to be more aggressively Jewish. To wear my Star of David in every day. It's not optional now. I'm a little bit scared, but I'm kind of always scared," said Susan Blackman, a friend of one of the victims.

"Particularly for me, a Holocaust survivor, I never thought that after the Nazi tyranny ended, coming to this land of freedom, I would see anti-Semitism not only in Europe, but even in our own country," said Rabbi Arthur Schneier of Park East Synagogue in New York City.

Until recently, many Jews in the U.S. believed anti-Semitism wasn't as serious an issue here as in Europe. And in many ways, American Jews are as integrated as they have ever been. But Saturday's massacre didn't come out of nowhere — the resurgence of anti-Semitism was already fully visible last year when white supremacists marched in Charlottesville.

The Anti-Defamation League reported a 57 percent rise in anti-Semitic incidents on U.S. soil in 2017 compared to the previous year. That's the biggest year-to-year increase since the organization started tracking the data in 1979.

The reported incidents included assaults, bomb threats, vandalism and harassment.

Then there's the daily harassment of prominent Jews on social media, mainly by neo-Nazis and white supremacists. The suspect in Saturday's shooting routinely posted anti-Jewish and anti-immigrant conspiracy theories online. He reportedly threatened a Jewish group hours before the attack. 

And bizarre claims about Jews that used to be confined to fringe anti-Semites are now increasingly being circulated by elected officials, including the president. The ADL says the normalization of anti-Semitism online is probably a factor behind the rise in offline anti-Semitism.

Rabbi Marvin Hier, the founder and dean of an organization that fights anti-Semitism, told The New York Times: "I'm afraid to say that we may be at the beginning of what has happened to Europe, the consistent anti-Semitic attacks. ... I am afraid the worst is yet to come."

Even though Jews only make up 2 percent of the U.S. population, they bear the brunt of religious bigotry. FBI statistics from 2016, the most recent year available, show that more than half of all reported religious hate crimes were anti-Jewish.

Additional reporting from Newsy affiliate CNN