REPORTS OF ANTI-SEMITISM INCH UP IN BAY STATE

REPORTS OF ANTI-SEMITISM INCH UP IN BAY STATE (usa)

28/7/2010- The number of reported anti-Semitic incidents has grown slightly in Massachusetts, bucking the trend of a national decline, according to data released yesterday by the Anti-Defamation League. In the organization’s annual audit, Massachusetts ranked sixth in the country for most anti-Semitic incidents reported. Rabbi Yekusiel Alperowitz of the Chabad Center in Hyannis, which was vandalized in 2009, described the statistics as disturbing. “I think to hate is a part of human nature, but it’s something that we have to work on correcting,’’ Alperowitz said. “It’s not just Massachusetts’ problem; it’s a world problem, and something that we have to confront all over.’’ In November 2009, three local teenagers were charged with breaking in the Chabad Center’s doors, vandalizing and destroying its property, and downloading hateful images, including some of Adolf Hitler that were left displayed on a computer screen. The message was clear, Alperowitz said, and it deeply affected community members. “There was a lot of hurt, and possibly fear as well,’’ he said. “It brings back a lot of memories to certain people. It took a while for the congregation to recover.’’

In 2009, the League logged 1,211 anti-Semitic acts committed throughout the United States. This marked a slight decline from 2008, when the organization counted 1,352 incidents. But Massachusetts saw a slight rise in the number of anti-Semitic acts throughout the year: The Anti-Defamation League recorded 55 incidents in the state, up from 52 in 2008. The number of incidents in Massachusetts had been declining since 2004. Although the increase was not big, the League’s New England regional director, Derrek L. Shulman, said the numbers show that anti-Semitism, like racism, sexism, and homophobia, still exists. The audit “shows anti-Semitism is very much a part of the fabric of America, be it urban or suburban or rural,’’ Shulman said. “The important thing is not that it went up by three incidents in Massachusetts, it’s that we still have it, and it still requires us to be steadfast in our response to it and in confronting it.’’

Among the most disturbing patterns the audit revealed, Shulman said, was a sharp increase in anti-Semitic activity on the Internet. “The Web makes it much easier to get anti-Semitic filth out into the mainstream,’’ he said. “It gives people the ability to sit behind the cover of their keyboard and send out things that they would be uncomfortable sharing in the light of day.’’ Extremists have begun using Facebook and MySpace, blogs, or other websites, such as YouTube, to espouse hateful messages, Shulman said. “Just because it’s generated on the Web makes it no less destructive,’’ Shulman said. “Ten years ago, how could anyone get something like that into perfectly reputable newspapers, for example? But now, message boards of well-known organizations can be taken over by people generating and spreading anti-Semitic hate.’’ Alperowitz, who has worked in the Hyannis synagogue for 15 years, said education is the best way to combat the prejudice that leads to acts of hate. “We need to strengthen education and make it clear what is acceptable and that certain things are unacceptable,’’ he said. “I feel these acts come from a marginal group of the population, however, these people are out there and we can’t ignore them.’’ Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont all saw reductions in the number of reported cases. California and New York reported the most anti-Semitic incidents, while Arkansas, Hawaii, Kentucky, Maine, Montana, and Nevada had only one reported incident apiece.
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