Bruce Murphy
Murphy’s Law

The Rise of Anti-Semitism

Study finds three-fold increase in metro area. Jewish leaders blame Trump.

By - Feb 23rd, 2017 11:50 am
Harry & Rose Samson Family Jewish Community Center

Harry & Rose Samson Family Jewish Community Center

The rise of Donald Trump was greeted by an increase in the rhetoric and activity of white supremacists exulting in his presidential candidacy. That helped fuel an explosion of anti-semitic incidents in 2016, but the situation is far worse in 2017.

Nationally there have been nearly 70 bomb threats against Jewish institutions in America in 2017, including two recent bomb threats against the local Jewish Community Center in Whitefish Bay. “There’s been a very dramatic increase in such incidents in 2017,” says Elana Kahn, director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Milwaukee Jewish Federation.

This week, her group released its annual audit of anti-semitic incidents for the 2016 year, and the news was not good. The number of incidents was three-times higher than five years before that, Kahn notes.

“The rhetoric around the presidential election not only legitimized bigotry against all minorities, as we’ve seen through a variety of statistics, but also included specific coded and overt anti-Semitic expressions. That climate on the national level affects the local community too,” said Ann Jacobs, chair of the JCRC’s Anti-Semitism Task Force, in a news release accompanying the audit.

The bomb threats have been happening since January 9, when 16 Jewish Community Centers in the country received bomb threats. On Monday, President’s Day, “another wave of bomb threats hit 11 JCCs across the country,” bringing the total this year to 69 incidents targeting 54 JCCs in 27 states, according to the JCCA, an association of Jewish Community Centers, CNN reported.

“I’ve been in the business for 20-plus years, and this is unprecedented,” Paul Goldenberg, national director of the Secure Community Network, told CNN. “It’s more methodical than meets the eye.”

Yet it wasn’t until Tuesday, six weeks after this that Trump finally addressed the problem. “It’s very troubling that it has taken him so long to respond,” says Kahn.

Trump’s statement was certainly forceful. “The anti-Semitic threats targeting our Jewish community and community centers are horrible and are painful and a very sad reminder of the work that still must be done to root out hate and prejudice and evil,” he said.

But critics charged it was Trump himself who was the cause of the problem he was condemning. Steven Goldstein, executive director of The Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect delivered a statement declaring that “The President’s sudden acknowledgment… is a pathetic asterisk of condescension after weeks in which he and his staff have committed grotesque acts and omissions reflecting anti-Semitism, yet day after day have refused to apologize and correct the record….Make no mistake: The anti-Semitism coming out of this administration is the worst we have ever seen from any administration.”

Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt accused Trump of a failure of leadership that “has created a vacuum that extremists have exploited. And when abuse is allowed, because it’s not forthrightly condemned, you see that it spreads like a virus.”

The fact that one of Trump’s most important policy advisors is Stephen Bannon, former editor of the “Alt Right” or white nationalist publication Breitbart News, has also been a red flag for Jewish leaders.

“The Alt Right has promulgated such bigoted, disgusting language under Bannon. It’s very troubling,” says Kahn.

The Southern Policy Law Center has documented the rise of anti-semitic rhetoric published in the comments section of Breitbart’s leadership. Ben Shapiro, a former Breitbart editor, has charged that Bannon turned the comments section into “a cesspool for white supremacist mememakers.”

While no bombs have been found to date in any of the Jewish institutions targeted, the blitz of threats alone can have a big impact, says Kahn. “The danger is that people will walk away from the Jewish Community Center and not want to be there, and not want to walk into any Jewish facilities. And that can isolate the Jewish community.”

The 2016 audit of metro Milwaukee noted anti-Semitic harassment and verbal expressions among middle and high school students, more reports of anti-Semitism on college campuses, increased incidents of swastika graffiti on public and private property and an increase in outright anti-Semitic slurs. Among the many incidents:

-A Jewish family whose children endured ongoing anti-Jewish bullying in a west suburban high school had an unexploded grenade firework placed as a threat on their porch.

-Angry comments on a synagogue Facebook page called congregants “rapists, murderers for hire, pedofiles (sic), insurance embezzlers and freeloading, lying Godless heathen scum.”

-During a mock election at a North Shore middle school, several students taunted Jewish students by saying (they) planned to write in Adolf Hitler for president.

The audit’s details add to a picture of a nation where racist and anti-semitic rhetoric and threats of violence will begin to seem normal — unless there is a push back from the rest of the country.

“We have to be vigilant and call out every outrageous statement,” Kahn says. “This is a poignant moment in America where we have the opportunity to stand up for each other. We need allies.”

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Categories: Murphy's Law, Politics, Race

37 thoughts on “Murphy’s Law: The Rise of Anti-Semitism”

  1. It is important to note that the Jewish Community Center is primarily a secular institution, much like the American Serb Hall, the Italian Community Center or the Polish Falcons, for that matter.
    The emphasis is on Community.
    All are free to join the many activities, classes and events held there for all ages. The JCC has a better pool than the nearby Town Club, the dues are far less, and it is much easier to be accepted as a member.
    Finally, the JCC operates a day care facility here. Those who issue bomb threats to pre-schoolers commit a hate crime against the entire community.

  2. Bruce Hall says:

    The rise in anti-semitism isn’t new. For example:

    It would be of more value to understand from where the threats are emanating. Are they from white supremacists or Muslim radicals?

    Or some other sources? And this is a worldwide phenomenon so it’s a bit of a stretch to say that Trump is responsible for an increase that was occurring under Obama.

    Determine the sources before declaring the causes.

  3. Brian Winters says:

    It is indeed odd that Trump waited so long to condemn this deplorable rhetoric and these despicable acts, especially since several members of his inner circle seem to actively practice Judaism or at least were brought up in Jewish homes. These include son-in-law Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump (who converted to Judaism in order to marry Mr. Kushner), Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, senior advisor Steven Miller, and chief economic advisor (and former Goldman Sachs president and COO) Gary Cohn. In fact, the Hillel center at Kent State University is named the Cohn Jewish Student Center, in honor of Gary Cohn’s parents and in recognition of a gift from Mr. Cohn and his wife.

    So is it Bannon who is driving this bus? And why are people around Trump who should know better letting Bannon get away with it?

    Ironically, Andrew Breitbart went to Hebrew school, had a bar mitzvah, and was described as “proudly Jewish, although not always religiously observant.”

  4. Jason says:

    Bruce, this is not you at your peak journalistic form. Donald Trump “Jew Hater” read all about it. What will we conjure up next Bruce a million white storm troopers sent to the north shore area to conduct surveillance on potential Jews.

  5. Vincent Hanna says:

    Is there any evidence Muslims are responsible for the rise in anti-Semitism in the United States? Not that I’m aware of. Not to mention Jihad Watch is fearmongering nonsense.

    Jason is Bruce Murphy wrong? Do you have any substantive quibbles? Did the incidents he references not really happen?

  6. A Bus Driver says:

    “So is it Bannon who is driving this bus? And why are people around Trump who should know better letting Bannon get away with it?

    Ironically, Andrew Breitbart went to Hebrew school, had a bar mitzvah, and was described as “proudly Jewish, although not always religiously observant.” ” Oh yeah, Bannon is driving this. Trump answers to him not the othe way around. As for Breibart don’t forget Hilter was a Jew.

  7. A Bus Driver says:

    Bannon has been driving & Trump is doing exactly what he tells him. As for Breitbart did you forget Hitler was also a Jew.

  8. tim haering says:

    To recast one of my favorite Woody Allen jokes, I felt some rising anti-semitism the other night, but it was just something I ate. Do all MIlwaukee Jews have these stripes?

  9. ken says:


    What do you mean?


  10. Jason says:

    It is interesting that the new head of the DNC may be Rep. Keith Ellison. Ellison was a disciple of the ” Jew Hater Lois Farrakhan. Mother Jones interviewed a former classmate of Ellison’s who claimed that the Minnesota Democrat said that Jews want to oppress minorities all over the world. Michael Olenick, Ellison’s former classmate, said Ellison’s argument was that “an oppressed group could not be racist toward Jews because Jews were themselves oppressors,” according to Mother Jones.

    Olenick went on to describe how Ellison would frequently talk about how European white Jews were the oppressors and bring up Jewish slave traders in conversation.

    Ellison’s past controversial remarks and associations have so far not hurt his candidacy to head the DNC. The Minnesota Democrat is considered the frontrunner to chair the Democratic Party along with Tom Perez, Barack Obama’s former secretary of labor.

  11. Daddy2Girls says:

    Ellison has also renounced any associations with the Nation of Islam, including his defense of Farrakhan.

    Would that the President renounce his own associations with antisemitism and those in his closest circle who have fanned the flames of Jewish hatred themselves (cough cough Bannon cough)

  12. Vincent Hanna says:

    So anti-Semitism is noteworthy for Jason only when it involves a Democrat. And guilty by association exists for Jason only when talking about Democrats. You are a unique snowflake Jason.

  13. Jason says:

    Daddy2Girls, last I looked Ivanka Trump is a converted Jew. What must President Trump explain to you. He accepts the fact that his daughters faith is Judaism . He trusts and has a great relationship with his son in law. What more proof do you need. Must Trump convert as well.

  14. Daddy2Girls says:

    Jason, he could fire Steve Bannon, renounce Breitbart and the alt-right. That would prove it to me. Nothing less.

  15. Vincent Hanna says:

    Ah yes the old “I have black friends” argument that the racist makes. Again, when it comes to Democrats, Jason employs guilt by association and condemns them. With his hero Trump, entirely different rules apply.

  16. Jason says:

    Vince, how is this story news worthy ? All I see is a respectible and sharp journalist hurting his own brand. This story is only red soy proteins for the left.

  17. I decry bomb threats at daycare centers, and feel that penalties for those who issue them should be enhanced.

  18. Vincent Hanna says:

    Jason that’s frighteningly obtuse, but it’s you so I’m not surprised. What is your standard for newsworthy exactly? 48 bomb threats were called in to Jewish Community Centers in January alone. On the local news the other night a staff member at the one in Whitefish Bay shared the story of middle school kids writing in Hitler for class president and said there has been a rash of incidents where Jewish people walking in North Shore communities are having slurs yelled at them from passing cars. Trump himself has (finally) acknowledged all these incidents as “horrible.” This meets any sane person’s definition of newsworthy. Bruce certainly isn’t hurting his brand. You are reinforcing yours. You can get back to watching your Richard Spencer videos.

  19. Vincent Hanna says:

    Oh and at least 100 and possibly as many as 500 graves at a Jewish cemetery in Philadelphia were damaged over the weekend. But Jason says nothing to see here. Fake news.

  20. AG says:

    The discussions here are foolish, all threats of violence against innocent people are deplorable and should be denounced, investigated, and prosecuted. Further, politics do not matter… anyone who hates an entire religion, be it Jew, Muslim, Christian, etc is a bigot and their beliefs have no place in a modern society.

  21. Vincent Hanna says:

    Yes AG and writing about them is newsworthy and hardly “red soy proteins for the left.”

  22. Daddy2Girls says:

    Yes, of course, AG. In other news, water is wet. Did you only come comment here to assert your superiority over everyone else? Did it feel good to you?

    If you have a point, let’s hear it.

  23. AG says:

    Vincent, glad we’re in agreement.

    Daddy2Girls, I’m not sure what else you want… the point was made, this is an a-political topic and making it seem otherwise is disappointing.

  24. Daddy2Girls says:

    AG, you’re kidding yourself. It’s hardly apolitical. We’re all looking for explanations for this, and our current political environment is an obvious one. If you have another theory, please share.

  25. Daniel says:

    It is apolitical in the sense that Jewish groups with no political affiliation such as the Anti-Defamation League, the Ann Frank Center, and the US Holocaust Museum, which have in the past been stridently critical of left-leaning individuals and organizations, have repeatedly criticized Trump and the Trump campaign for inciting, embracing, or failing to disavow anti-Semitism. So yes, much of the criticism of Trump’s role in the rise of anti-Semitism is indeed nonpartisan and “apolitical.”

    Then again, the leaders of the white nationalist and neo-Nazi movements do not think anti-Semitism is nonpartisan or apolitical. They’ve hitched their wagons to the leader of the Republican Party and celebrated his rise to the White House.

  26. Jason says:

    Kudos to the Democratic party for not nominating Rep.Keith Ellison as their leader. A man that believes hundred of Muslim countries can exist but Israel cannot. A man that voted against the Iron Dome missile defense system, so Israeli children would not have to fear for their lives as the Palestinians launched rockets at their schools.

  27. AG says:

    So you are all just now coming to the realization that this stuff happens, just because there’s been public wave of it recently? My wife worked for years at Chai Point and they were regularly under a high alert level. The fact that a senior living center has to be on “high alert” speaks for itself… let alone that this phenomenon is not new. I hope they catch whoever is behind this latest string of threats and if nothing else, appears to have put a spotlight on an issue that has been ignored by many for a long time.

  28. Vincent Hanna says:

    Jason you couldn’t possibly be any more disingenuous. No one here buys it. I’m sure they do at Breitbart though.

  29. Daniel says:

    AG, as a Jew, I am confident I’ve been as “alert” to anti-Semitism as your wife since the now-quaint time when Donald Trump was merely a boorish real estate developer. Jews typically do not need a “public wave” or a “spotlight” on anti-Semitism for it to become a concern. We live with it and have forever.

    So of course anti-Semitism is not new, but what you are missing, it seems willfully, is that there has been a well-documented increase in such activity, and an unprecedented brazenness of such activity, coinciding with the Trump campaign and election. To deny the existence of a connection that is right in front of your eyes is bad faith and shows a lack of willingness to confront the problem. Unfortunately, not everyone has the freedom to ignore.

  30. AG says:

    Daniel, I disagree… apparently it took anti-semitism during Trumps presidency for any of these people commenting here to care about the topic.

    I’m not denying anything that is going on right now, I am merely saying it’s long past time for this to be recognized for the threat that it is. The high number of threats recently is merely the tip of the iceberg.

  31. AG says:

    Sorry, to be fair… I should have said “some” of the commentors here, not “any.”

  32. Daddy2Girls says:

    Oh, simmer down AG. Not a single person here thinks of antisemitism as an all-new thing to care about since January 20th. Stop being so obtuse.

  33. Vincent Hanna says:

    Daddy is right. That anti-Semitism hasn’t been discussed much prior to the recent election hardly means some people here just started caring about it. That’s a really stupid and ignorant thing to say. It’s beneath you AG, or it should be.

  34. AG says:

    So who here was surprised that the first person caught in the latest string of bomb threats wasn’t an alt-right extremist but was instead an anti-capitalist anarchist looking for revenge against an ex girlfriend?

  35. Daddy2Girls says:

    Are you seriously asking us if we should be “surprised” by a deranged copycat taking advantage of a prevailing trend?

    Hold off on the smugness at least for now, dude.

  36. Vincent Hanna says:

    He’s a copycat. And that has nothing to do with the stupidity of your earlier comment.

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