Antisemitism in US At All Time High in 2019, ADL Reports

A group of Jewish worshippers entered a rabbi’s home in Monsey, New York to celebrate the joyous miracle of Hannukah in December, 2019. As they were gathering, a man filled with hate, Grafton Thomas, grabbed a machete and prepared to target the group and ultimately kill them.

Thomas soon entered the rabbi’s home and savagely struck members of the group. Despite his efforts, Thomas was unsuccessful in causing any immediate deaths. One victim, however, Joseph Neumann, 72, was left in a comatose state after the perpetrator used his machete to slice through his skull, his arm, and a part of his brain that paralyzed a portion of his body.

A total of 2,107 antisemitic incidents were reported in 2019 in the United States, compared to 1,879 in 2018, Anti-Defamation League

After months of being in an unconscious state, Neumann began to show signs of life, but the family hadn’t told anyone about the potential miracle. At that time, this reporter was traveling to New York in February and asked to meet with the victim’s daughter, Nicky Kohen. To be honest, I didn’t expect much news considering the severity of Neumann’s injuries and the dire predictions doctors provided to the family.

When I sat with Kohen in her home in Monsey, she revealed to me that her father had opened his eyes, was “somewhat tracking,” and partially breathing over his respirator. We were both in shock.

“I do think it’s a miracle now,” she said at the time. “Obviously, we’re praying for a full miracle. I told my sister the other day ‘obviously I’m telling people should pray that he can walk and run around again and that’s what I’m praying for.’ Now, do I think it’s realistic, do I know what the doctor said, I know what they said.”

“I’m hoping, I’m hoping that obviously, when he’s fully awake, God willing, he’ll be able to understand us and communicate with us cause if he doesn’t that would scare me the most if he can understand us, but not communicate,” she added.

Unfortunately, Neumann’s injuries were too severe and he succumbed to them in late March.

The attack in Monsey is part of a string of antisemitic incidents that took place in 2019 that the Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish advocacy group tracking antisemitism since 1979, is reporting its highest year on record. During a call with reporters on Tuesday morning, ADL’s CEO Jonathan Greenblatt noted that the “historic levels of hate” are making antisemitism “all too commonplace” as two-thirds of American Jews report they feel less safe than they did a decade ago.

A total of 2,107 antisemitic incidents were reported in 2019, compared to 1,879 in 2018. The majority of the attacks involved harassment and vandalism. Moreover, there were 61 reported assaults, involving physical attacks, a 56 percent increase from the previous year.

Three significant attacks occurred in 2019, including in Monsey, that targeted the Jewish community. Nearly one year ago, a local synagogue in Poway, California was attacked when a hate-filled white supremacist gunman opened fire on Jewish worshippers observing the Sabbath and the final day of Passover. The gunman injured several congregants and the Rabbi and killed Lori Gilbert-Kaye, a beloved member of the synagogue described as a “pillar in the community.”

Later in the year, two gunmen opened fire on a Kosher supermarket, central to the Jewish community in Jersey City, New Jersey. One police officer and three people in the store were killed by the attackers and eventually, both suspects were killed in a shootout with police. They were part of an antisemitic Black Hebrew Israelite church, a group the Southern Poverty Law Center dubs “racist” and warns of its obsessive hatred for Jews, White people, and members of the LGBTQ community.

“This is a broad movement in which you have some sects that are a little bit more extreme than others. The one that we have been tracking at ADL for many years believing that Jews are spawns of satan, that their community is the real Israelites if you will, the Jews are sort of viewed as imposters,” ADL’s Oren Segal said.

“Many people have come across them if you’ve walked in Times Square or the Harbor of Baltimore. These are people who are yelling at people that pass by them, who are often perceived as Jewish, or White, or LGBTQ. There’s a subsection of this movement that has always been very animated in terms of their hatred of those who they believe have coopted their religion,” Segal added, noting that “there hasn’t been a tremendous amount of violence” emanating from the group over the past twenty years” signaling that the Jersey City attack came as a shock.

Jews in New Jersey and New York were the “most victimized” community in 2019, ADL noted on Tuesday’s call. A total of 775 incidents in 2019’s count occurred in the region, alone, and out of an average of six antisemitic incidents per day nationwide, two are estimated to occur in the two states.

“They don’t want to fight, they just want peace,” one local grocery store worker told me in Williamsburg, Brooklyn who was ready to arm himself to protect shoppers amid the spike in attacks.

Brooklyn, one of the hardest-hit areas, is home to one of New York’s largest Orthodox Jewish communities.