Anti-Semitic Acts Rise in State, Nationwide, Group Says

Times Staff Writer

Anti-Semitic incidents rose last year in California, and across the country for the second straight year, according to an annual report by the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith.

But in the category of vandalism against Jewish property, the numbers declined somewhat in California, largely because of vigorous prosecution of members of neo-Nazi “skinhead” gangs and other offenders, the report said.

The conclusions were announced in Los Angeles on Thursday by the league, which audited two categories of incidents--vandalism against property and harassment of individuals--in 40 states.

David A. Lehrer, the league’s regional director in Los Angeles, told a news conference that national incidents of vandalism--including arson, bombings and swastika daubings--increased by 18.5% last year, from 694 to 823 incidents. Harassment of individual Jews, including telephone threats and assaults, he said, rose 41%, up from 324 incidents to 458 last year.


Acts of vandalism in California decreased 12%, from 137 incidents in 1987 to 121 last year, Lehrer said, but acts of harassment nearly doubled, rising from 26 to 49. So overall, anti-Semitic incidents in the state rose from 163 acts in 1987 to 170 last year.

Lehrer pointed out, however, that the decrease in vandalism failed to counteract the 121% increase shown in California between 1986 and 1987.

Incidents tallied in the report included arson at a Fullerton synagogue; bomb threats to synagogues in Fullerton and La Jolla; explosion of a pipe bomb on the grounds of a Florida synagogue, and the beating and stabbing of a 19-year-old Yeshiva University student in New York.

Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. Ira Reiner, whom Lehrer credited partially for the decrease in vandalism here, said he disagreed with the idea that hate groups should be ignored because focusing attention on them only increases their numbers.

“The way to deal with them is to jump on them at the very beginning,” Reiner said. “You have to disrupt them and disorganize them and not give them the luxury of allowing them to organize.”

Lehrer said the arrest record for anti-Semitic offenders is improving, with 124 arrests last year, compared to 78 nationally in 1987. Reiner said two such offenders were sent to prison last year in Los Angeles County.

Although the skinhead youth groups are growing, Reiner said: “It is one thing to be a member of a group and espouse a certain philosophy and another to act. Vigorous prosecution assures that their rhetoric won’t be matched by their deeds.”

Lehrer attributed the overall increase in anti-Semitic acts last year to hatred stirred up by national and international events:

- Growth of skinhead gangs, which the league claims has 2,000 members active in 21 states. Forty-one incidents in 15 states last year were attributed to the group.

- The Palestinian uprising in the West Bank and Gaza, which the group said sparked 117 incidents against Jews in the United States, including arson, bomb threats and phone or mail threats.

- The 50th anniversary of Kristallnacht, the Nazi destruction of synagogues and other Jewish property in Germany and Austria. More than 60 incidents occurred in the United States during that weeklong observance, the ADL said.