Record number of antisemitic attacks in 2021, San Antonio incidents included

Incidents reported in all 50 states, Texas one of top five

SAN ANTONIOAntisemitism has been on the rise over the past several years, and a new study released last week by the Anti-Defamation League shows the trend is only growing.

The ADL reported 2,717 incidents of antisemitism, including assault, harassment and vandalism, in 2021. This represents the highest number on record since ADL began tracking antisemitic incidents in 1979.

It’s an average of more than seven incidents per day and a 34 percent increase year over year.

Incidents were reported in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Texas was one of five states with the highest numbers.

  • New York (416)
  • New Jersey (370)
  • California (367)
  • Florida (190)
  • Michigan (112)
  • Texas (112)

The ADL’s 2021 report shows nationwide:

  • Assaults rose 167 percent
  • Harassments rose 43 percent
  • Vandalism rose 14 percent

Though San Antonio’s attacks were not violent, the ADL’s Hate, Extremism, Antisemitism, Terrorism (HEAT) map shows two of the most recent incidents reported were in San Antonio.

In the past, San Antonio has had vandalism at synagogues and other Jewish organizations. However, the attacks reported locally in 2021 have been in the form of propaganda being distributed across different neighborhoods.

KSAT reported several of these incidents in October 2021, and the trend has continued.

Last month, plastic bags filled with flyers and dog food (likely to weigh the bag down) were distributed across the Inspiration Hills neighborhood on the Northwest Side.

“I thought maybe someone’s trying to sell dog food or promote it, and then I saw a swastika,” Julia Barrera said.

Barrera found the flyer from a white supremacist organization on her driveway. She discovered more flyers and furious neighbors when she drove around her neighborhood.

“They were outraged,” she said.

Around the nation, ADL’s 2021 report shows incidents rose in other types of locations:

  • Attacks on Jewish institutions (synagogues, JCCs) rose 61 percent
  • Attacks at K-12 schools rose 106 percent
  • Attacks on college campuses rose 21 percent

The study showed a substantial surge was reported during the May 2021 conflict between Israel and Hamas. There was a staggering 148 percent increase in reports of antisemitic incidents that month compared to May 2020, as tensions were high and hundreds of anti-Israel protests took place in dozens of U.S. cities.

As Jewish individuals were violently beaten in the streets from New York to Los Angeles, a total of 387 incidents were reported that month, with 297 of the incidents occurring after May 10, the date marking the official start of military action.

“We’re always on alert. We’re always very concerned about our security. We never want to be alarmist but also have significant security protocols in place,” said Rabbi Mara Nathan with Temple Beth El in San Antonio.

Rabbi Nathan said the temple recently took advantage of new federal funding for Jewish organizations to increase security measures.

However, she doesn’t want those necessary moves to signal fear.

“I think overall, the Jewish community feels safe and welcome here in San Antonio,” Nathan said.

She said the city of San Antonio and the Jewish community have a long, positive history.

“The Jewish community has been involved in the building of San Antonio as early as the probably the 1700s but certainly the 1800s,” she said.

Nathan isn’t the only one who believes in the cohesiveness of San Antonio.

“They picked the wrong city,” Barrera said. “We have such amazing culture here. We’re so inclusive.”

Nathan is proud of the neighborhood’s reaction and quest to contact the media and publicly denounce hate.

“Of course, we need to be careful and look out for ourselves, but I think if we look around, we see that most people are good people,” she said.

Nathan said the best way for the non-Jewish community to help is to be ambassadors for their Jewish neighbors.

“In the schools, to invite people in to do Holocaust education, to have parents come in to do fun things like Hanukkah or make sure there are some Jewish songs that are part of the choir concert or the band concert,” she said.

One way to start is by learning more about Judaism and its traditions.

“At temple, we have tours all the time from different churches or Christian schools. They come in to find out about our building and find out about our traditions,” Nathan said.

Anyone who would like to tour Temple Beth El or join services or holidays can contact the temple at (210) 733-9135.

About the Authors

Courtney Friedman anchors KSAT’s weekend evening shows and reports during the week. Her ongoing Loving in Fear series confronts Bexar County’s domestic violence epidemic. She joined KSAT in 2014 and is proud to call the SA and South Texas community home. She came to San Antonio from KYTX CBS 19 in Tyler, where she also anchored & reported.

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