Antisemitic incidents surged in California as conspiracies fueled hate, report says

LOS ANGELES-CA-FEBRUARY 17, 2023: LAPD on horseback along Pico Boulevard after the recent shootings of two Jewish men in the Pico-Robertson area of Los Angeles on Thursday, February 17, 2023. (Christina House / Los Angeles Times)
LAPD officers patrol on horseback along Pico Boulevard on Feb. 17 after the recent shootings of two Jewish men in the neighborhood. (Christina House / Los Angeles Times)

Antisemitic incidents involving harassment, vandalism and assaults surged in Southern California and the rest of the state in 2022, according to a new report by the Anti-Defamation League.

The Jewish civil rights organization counted 237 antisemitic incidents reported in Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernardino and Kern counties, a 30% increase from the previous year. Across the state, the ADL tallied 518 incidents last year, up 41% from 2021.

California ranked No. 2 in the number of incidents in the United States, behind New York's 580 incidents.

Across the country, the ADL found 3,697 incidents of antisemitism last year, a 36% increase from 2021. The organization said it's the highest number of incidents since it started tracking anti-Jewish hatred in 1979.

“In a year when antisemitism found mainstream acceptance like never before, antisemites were emboldened to act on their animus,” Oren Segal, vice president of the ADL's Center on Extremism, said in the report. “From the antisemitic ‘Great Replacement’ theory to Ye’s claims about Jewish power, these conspiracies fueled real-world incidents of hate.”

Holocaust Museum LA said it received antisemitic threats on social media after Kanye West publicly rejected an invitation to a private tour of the museum in October. The institution wanted West, who now goes by Ye, "to understand just how words can incite horrific violence and genocides" after the rapper's inflammatory remarks about the Jewish community.

West espoused antisemitic conspiracy theories in social media posts and TV interviews.

In October, a well-known hate group demonstrated in support of West on a 405 Freeway overpass in Los Angeles. Demonstrators gave Nazi salutes to passing motorists and unfurled a banner that read, "Kanye is right about the Jews," according to images collected by anti-discrimination organizations.

At UC Davis in August, campus police searched for four white men in black clothing who displayed Holocaust denial banners over a bicycle overpass, according to Chancellor Gary May.

Antisemitic incidents on U.S. college campuses have increased by 41%, with 219 incidents reported at more than 130 campuses in 2022, the study found.

“It’s deeply troubling that there was such a sharp increase in school- and college-based antisemitic acts,” Jonathan Greenblattm, the ADL's chief executive, said in a statement.

"This is a reminder of the need for more targeted education efforts aimed at rooting out hate and teaching acceptance," Greenblatt added. "Holocaust education is increasingly important, which is why we are advocating for the passage of state laws mandating Holocaust education so schools are equipped to teach that history and ensure its lessons endure.”

Reported antisemitic propaganda materials were distributed in the U.S. at a higher rate in 2022 than in previous years, with 852 incidents, compared to just 422 in 2021, according to the ADL.

Antisemitic fliers were spread across multiple neighborhoods in 2022, including in the San Gabriel Valley, at the start of the Jewish holiday Yom Kippur, authorities said.

In May, a group of people dressed in clothing reminiscent of the Nazi brownshirts drove a rented truck displaying hateful messages down Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood and Beverly Hills, according to watchdog group StopAntisemitism. The organization said the Goyim Defense League, which has been identified as a hate group by the ADL, was behind the incident.

The ADL report claims that antisemitic activities from organized groups have surged in recent years.

Nationwide, harassment jumped 29% from 2021, with 2,298 reported incidents where antisemitic slurs, stereotypes or conspiracy theories were recorded, the ADL said. The report claims that a Jewish-owned restaurant received a call from someone who asked for the "Kanye special" and then said, "Death to all Jews."

On the first night of Hanukkah, a Texas man was arrested on suspicion of carving antisemitic, Nazi symbols into the base of a large menorah in Beverly Hills. This was one of 1,288 reported vandalism incidents in 2022, an increase of 435 from the year before, according to the ADL. Swastikas appeared in 792 of these incidents, up 37% from 2021.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.