In response to bomb threats, Nazi salutes and swastikas drawn at schools and Jewish community centers over the past two years, San Francisco took a stand this week against the rise of anti-Semitic acts.
Supervisor Hillary Ronen introduced a resolution at the San Francisco Board of Supervisors to condemn aggression toward the Jewish community and other minorities.
When a hoax bomb threat targeting Jewish people was received at the Anti-Defamation League’s San Francisco office in February, the entire city block was evacuated, striking fear in the staff and disrupting their work, said Seth Brysk, who directs the organization’s Central Pacific Region.
Anti-Semitic flyers were also distributed on BART last year and a mezuzah was set on fire on a student’s front door in March — both additional examples of acts against Jewish community in The City.
Four anti-Semitic crimes were registered in San Francisco in 2016 and two in 2017, said San Francisco police spokesperson Sgt. Michael Andraychak. Brysk pointed out many of the crimes go unreported.
The incidents are not unique to San Francisco, and their numbers are growing.
In California, the number of anti-Semitic acts excede the number of incidents against all other religions combined, Brysk said.
Nationwide, the number of acts rose by more than a third in 2016 and by another 86 percent in the first quarter of 2017, Brysk said. These acts range between bullying and vandalism to harassment and assault.
“The country as a whole is becoming less tolerant,” said Nate Allbee from Supervisor Ronen’s Office.
The last-year presidential election might have emboldened extreme white nationalists, leading to some of the incidents, Brysk and Allbee said.
Brysk said the rise of anti-Israel and anti-Zionist rhetoric is another factor. He explained that criticism of Israel becomes anti-Semitic when Jewish people are blamed and when anti-Semitic symbols are used.
Supervisor Ronen, a Jewish woman whose father immigrated from Israel, sees raising awareness about anti-Semitism crucial in making The City more tolerant, Allbee said.
“Passing a resolution is a good start, but there is a lot more that needs to happen,” Brysk said.
To be a good ally to Jewish community, Brysk said The City needs to define anti-Semitic acts, speak out when they occur and to train employees to act against them, even before the act becomes a crime.
Jeremy Russell from Jewish Community Relations Council said by email, “We hope the city will continue to remain open, inclusive and welcoming to the full diversity of its communities, including the Jewish community.”