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ADL: Anti-Semitic Incidents on the Rise in Arizona for Third Straight Year

Temple Beth Sholom in Lake Havasu City was vandalized in December.
Temple Beth Sholom in Lake Havasu City was vandalized in December.
Courtesy of ADL

The first reported incident of 2018 happened on January 5.

A north Phoenix woman reported that teenagers ding-dong-ditched her home, leaving a note for her to find on her doorstep. The note included a hand-drawn swastika, a stick-figure Hitler, and a crossed-out Star of David.

The last incident happened on December 27.

Someone vandalized Temple Beth Sholom in Lake Havasu City, smashing a Star of David mosaic and causing about $1,000 worth of damage.

In between, the Anti Defamation League (ADL) of Arizona recorded 30 other anti-Semitic incidents in this state, including cases of harassment and vandalism. That represented a 23 percent uptick from 2017 and the third straight year of increasing anti-Semitic incidents in Arizona.

Thirteen — or about 40 percent — of the reported incidents included the use of a swastika.

Six of the 32 cases occurred in schools. Perhaps the most high-profile example was the teenagers at Paradise Valley High School who arranged their bodies into a swastika. A photo of the symbol first posted on Snapchat made local headlines in February 2018.

Other incidents are lesser known. On January 16, students surrounded an eighth-grader at one west Valley school and gave him the Nazi salute. The next day, a classmate told the student that his favorite song is "Kill All the Jews" by Adolf Hitler, which does not appear to be a real song. On October 8, another west Valley student was approached by a classmate who said, "You're a Jew. I'm going to burn you."

Carlos Galindo-Elvira, regional director for the ADL, said the rise in anti-Semitic incidents matches a rise in rhetoric targeting Jews. "There is a feeling that it's okay to denigrate others or treat them as the other," Galindo-Elvira said.

Galindo-Elvira did not mention a specific source of anti-Semitic rhetoric, but the ADL has pointed to a "heightened political atmosphere" following the 2016 presidential election as a source for the recent increase.

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Rabbi John Linder of Temple Solel in Paradise Valley said he has not personally experienced direct Antisemitism, but said "there is a heightened anxiety from news reports of increased anti-Semitism in our own community, across the United States and around the globe." He said Temple Solel has responded by increasing security measures any hiring off-duty police officers. "We are surely not taking any of it lightly," he added.

The increase of reported anti-Semitic incidents in Arizona also tracks with the national trend, according to an annual audit by the ADL. The organization recorded 1,879 attacks against Jews and Jewish institutions nationwide in 2018, the third-highest year since it started keeping data in the 1970s.

Last year also saw the October Pittsburgh shooting, the deadliest attack on Jews in American history, in which a white nationalist fatally shot 11 synagogue congregants. The Pittsburgh shooter had spread unfounded conspiracy theories that George Soros — a modern symbol for anti-Semites — was financing migrant caravans heading for the southern border.

Another synagogue shooting occurred on Saturday in a suburb of San Diego, killing one person. The shooter had posted an online anti-Semitic manifesto moments before the incident.

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