Hate Crimes Against Jews in L.A. Rose Nearly 60 Percent in First Half of 2021

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People participating in a Jewish solidarity march against anti-Semitism on January 5, 2020, in New York City.
People participating in a Jewish solidarity march against anti-Semitism last year in New York City. Credit: AFP

The first six months of 2021 saw hate crimes against Jews in Los Angeles increase by 59.2 percent over the same period the previous year, an analysis of LAPD figures published by data journalism website Crosstown on Monday shows.

According to Crosstown, a non-profit newsroom connected to the USC Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism, the number of antisemitic incidents reported in 2021 – 43 – was more than twice as high as in 2018, when there were less than 20 antisemitic hate crimes in the city.

“Anti-Jewish attacks made up 14.6 percent of the 295 hate crimes reported in Los Angeles in the first half of 2021,” Crosstown stated in its analysis, linking the increase to an “overall rise in intolerance” which saw recorded hate crimes against all groups rise to 62 this April – “the highest monthly total in the city in at least a decade.”

While antisemitic incidents rose precipitously, Jews were only the third most targeted group, lagging behind African Americans and Latinos. Jews make up about 600,000 of Los Angeles' population of nearly 4 million.

According to the ADL’s Center on Extremism, antisemitic incidents in the United States “more than doubled during the May 2021 military conflict” between Israel and Hamas in Gaza before eventually returning to normal levels. 

Concern over antisemitism in the United States has grown significantly since Israel's Operation Guardian of the Walls, with 41 percent of American Jews indicating that they were “more concerned about their personal safety” than prior to the outbreak of hostilities, according to an ADL poll released last month.

During the conflict, a group of men waving Palestinian flags attacked diners at a sushi restaurant in the Beverly Grove neighborhood of Los Angeles. They threw bottles and other objects and punched some of the diners, including a group of Jewish men.

A non-Jewish man at the scene told the local CBS affiliate that he and his group also were attacked, and that he was pepper-sprayed when he tried to defend the people he was with. He added that the attackers used antisemitic language to determine who at the restaurant was Jewish.

The attack was condemned by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, who tweeted that “Jewish Angelenos, like all residents, should always feel safe in our city.”

He added, “There is simply no place for antisemitism, discrimination, or prejudice of any kind in Los Angeles. And we will never tolerate bigotry and violence in our communities,” he said at the time.

In a separate incident in the city, which was recorded by a security camera, an Orthodox Jewish man was chased by a caravan of Palestine supporters. He escaped unharmed.

Antisemitism also rose significantly in New York, where the NYPD reported this month that hate crimes had jumped by 135 percent in 2021, with incidents against Jews rising by 61 percent. The head of the city’s Office for the Prevention of Hate Crimes, however, cautioned that the increased 2021 numbers should be seen in the context of a dip in incidents the previous year, when many New Yorkers were sheltering in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Last Monday, a Hasidic man was attacked with a piece of broken furniture and subjected to antisemitic insults in an apparently racially motivated assault in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Bedford–Stuyvesant.

According to the New York Police Department, which tweeted a video of the incident on Friday, the victim, a “25-year-old male wearing traditional Jewish garb,” was accosted by an unknown assailant “who made anti-Jewish statements and assaulted” him in broad daylight in front of at least one witness.

The video showed the suspect smashing a drawer from a dresser left on the curb against a building’s stoop and using one of the splintered pieces to attack the victim.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo tweeted that he was “disgusted” to learn of another attack against the Jewish community and said that he had directed the New York State Police Hate Crimes Task Force “to offer assistance in the investigation.”

This is the second time in recent months that Cuomo has publicly tasked state police to work on an antisemitism-related issue. In late May, he directed the law enforcement agency to reinforce security at Jewish institutions in the New York City area following a spate of violent incidents targeting Jewish residents coinciding with the recent military confrontation between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.

JTA contributed to this report.

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