The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Reports of antisemitic incidents in the D.C. region in 2020 are highest on record, anti-bias group says

Demonstrators protest outside the offices of New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo (D) on Oct. 15, 2020, saying he and other state officials engaged in a “streak of antisemitic discrimination” by cracking down on religious gatherings to reduce coronavirus infections. (Kathy Willens/AP)

Reports of antisemitic incidents rose in the D.C. region in 2020 to an all-time high, a leading anti-bias group said Tuesday, as people blamed Jews for the spread of the pandemic and attacked their institutions via videoconference “Zoom-bombings.”

The Anti-Defamation League, which has been tracking reports it receives since 1979, also said Tuesday that the number of reported incidents nationally — 2,204 — declined by 4 percent in 2020 after hitting an all-time high in 2019. Last year was still the third-highest year on record, the ADL said. The incidents are classified into three categories: assault, harassment and vandalism.

The 1,242 reports of harassment nationally in 2020 represent an increase of 10 percent over 2019, while reported acts of vandalism and assault declined by 18 percent and 49 percent, respectively.

The ADL receives reports of bias against Jews and other groups at its branches around the country.

D.C. pushes security grant for faith-based institutions after year of unrest

In Maryland, 47 antisemitic incidents were reported to the ADL in 2020, a 135 percent increase from the 20 incidents in 2019. Maryland registered the 11th-highest number of antisemitic incidents reported in the country for 2020, the ADL said. The change was all in the category of harassment.

In Virginia, 49 antisemitic incidents were reported in 2020, a 75 percent increase from the 28 incidents in 2019. Virginia registered the 10th-highest number of antisemitic incidents reported in the country for 2020. The reports were of harassment and vandalism.

In D.C., 43 antisemitic incidents were reported in 2020, a 126 percent increase from the 19 incidents in 2019. The District was tied with Ohio for the 13th-highest number of incidents. The reports included harassment, vandalism and two assault incidents.

The number of incidents reported to the ADL in 2020 in D.C., Maryland and Virginia was the highest since the group began collecting data in 1979, said Meredith Weisel, senior associate regional director of the ADL. However, the ADL in the early 2000s changed the way it characterizes complaints and therefore can give specific apples-to-apples data only from 2008 to 2020, she said.

After the pandemic spread in March 2020, “incidents of antisemitism at schools and colleges dropped precipitously as learning moved online,” the ADL said Tuesday. “However, this led to an increase in incidents of antisemitic ‘Zoombombing’ — the intentional disruption of live videoconferences.” In 2020, the ADL recorded 196 incidents of antisemitic videoconferencing attacks nationally.

The 139 antisemitic incidents in the region included visual attacks such as swastikas on schools, mailboxes and buildings and fliers left at homes and on cars. They also included attacks on Zoom during intimate events such as weddings and funerals.

In D.C., Zoom-bombers in August disrupted a synagogue’s services by sharing videos of Hitler and pornographic videos, and shouting “Death to Zionists” and “Free Palestine.” A virtual memorial service in November was crashed by people showing images of Hitler and porn.

A customer at a Baltimore store in August was threatened by another customer, the ADL report noted, who told him “All you Jews think you run the world and think you control everything” and “F--- Jews.” The same month, a Jewish virtual wedding of a Potomac couple “was hijacked,” the ADL report said, by people yelling “Kill all the Jews!”, “Kill the Jew bride!” and “Send them back to Auschwitz!” In May of 2020, the Loyal White Knights, a subset of the Ku Klux Klan, distributed fliers in New Windsor, Md., about the coronavirus that said Jews are “the real plague.”

A Jewish student at a public middle school in Silver Spring in March 2020 reported being bullied by a classmate for wearing a yarmulke and was called a “Jewish f---.”

A Dale City, Va., synagogue received a bomb threat in August, the same month “members of the neo-Nazi Nationalist Social Club posed outside the Virginia Holocaust Museum with the flag of the armed forces of Nazi Germany and gave Nazi salutes,” the ADL report said.


199 House Republicans have embraced antisemitism and violence

Christian nationalists and QAnon followers tend to be antisemitic. That was seen in the Capitol attack.

How anti-Semitic beliefs have taken hold among some evangelical Christians