The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has reported a 57% increase in anti-Semitic incidents in the US last year – the highest tally recorded by the Jewish civil rights group in more than two decades.
The New York City-based organisation found 1,986 anti-Semitic incidents last year, up from 1,267 in 2016. That represents the highest total since 1994 and the largest single-year increase since the group began collecting data in 1979.
The ADL said the sharp rise includes 952 incidents of vandalism, an increase of 86% from 2016. The group also counted 1,015 incidents of harassment.
ADL national director and CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said the “alarming” increase appears to be fuelled by emboldened far-right extremists as well as the “divisive state of our national discourse”.
“Less civility has led to more intolerance,” he said.
Mr Greenblatt also acknowledged that heightened awareness of the problem likely led to increased reporting of anti-Semitic incidents.
Anti-Semitic incidents at schools and on college campuses nearly doubled for the second year in a row, with 457 such incidents reported in non-Jewish schools last year, the ADL report said.
The ADL and other groups have reported a surge in the number of incidents in which far-right extremist groups have posted racist and anti-Semitic fliers on college campuses. ADL spokesman Todd Gutnick said the report’s tally only counts incidents in which flyers had explicitly anti-Semitic messages.
The ADL also counted 19 anti-Semitic physical assaults last year, a 47% decrease from 2016.
The harassment incidents included 169 bomb threats against Jewish institutions, nearly all of them made by two men. The ADL report said more than 150 bomb threats against Jewish community centres and day schools last year were allegedly made by an 18-year-old Israeli-American Jewish hacker, who was arrested in Israel last March.
Separately, a former journalist from St Louis pleaded guilty to making a string of fake bomb threats to Jewish organisations last year in the name of his ex-girlfriend in an effort to disrupt her life.
The ADL is urging US congress to pass legislation to expand federal protections against bomb threats to religious institutions. The legislation, approved by the US house of representatives in December, awaits action in the senate, the ADL said.
Mr Greenblatt also urged “all public figures” to speak out against anti-Semitism,“whether you’re the president of the United States or the head of the local PTA”.
President Donald Trump was widely criticised for saying there was “blame on both sides” after violence erupted in August at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, where 32-year-old Heather Heyer was killed when a man drove his car into a crowd of demonstrators.
“There’s no question we would love to see the president call out anti-Semitism as consistently and clearly as he does other issues,” Mr Greenblatt said.