Anti-Semitic Incidents Rose In Mass. In 2016

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Damaged headstones are seen at Mount Carmel cemetery on Feb. 27, 2017, in Philadelphia. (Jacqueline Larma/AP)
Damaged headstones are seen at Mount Carmel cemetery on Feb. 27, 2017, in Philadelphia. (Jacqueline Larma/AP)

A new report out today from the Anti-Defamation League ranks Boston as fifth in the nation for anti-Semitic incidents in the country — even though the state ranks 15th in population.

From the toppling of headstones to swastikas in school bathrooms, the report found a total of 125 incidents in Massachusetts in 2016. That's a sharp increase from 50 incidents in 2015.


Robert Trestan, executive director of the Anti-Defamation League's Boston office. He tweets @rtrestan.

Interview Highlights

On the types of incidents the ADL tracks

"Anywhere from people being harassed to vandalism to assaults, so it runs the gamut. ... Some of these things don't end up in police reports or crime stats because they don't always rise to the level of a criminal offense.

"We did not see an increase in assaults, particularly in Massachusetts. The real concern for us here in Massachusetts was a large increase in harassment and a large increase in vandalism. And what the data showed us was that the vast majority of incidents were occurring in schools."

On why young people are involved in these incidents

"We're living in a very challenged time with a heightened political atmosphere. One of the things that's different now that even didn't exist maybe two years ago is the existence of smartphones and access to technology and information. And in the past year, people are speaking in ways that they didn't before. Some of the hate, some of the vitriol [that] for years was on the fringe is now part of the mainstream and because of technology, everyone from teenagers on up have access to it."

On what schools can do

"We shouldn't run away from an incident. The data shows us no community is immune, whether it's affluent, inner city, public or private schools. We encourage schools to be transparent, to communicate and to drill down — find out what happened, how it happened, why it happened and to engage students in discussion.

On why Massachusetts had so many incidents

"I think one of the things about Massachusetts is we have a real heightened awareness of incidents. ... It always strikes me that in Massachusetts, we have a high number of hate crimes that are actually reported to law enforcement. I would not always look at that as a negative number. I would say people are not afraid to report things here."

This segment aired on April 24, 2017.



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