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Report: Anti-Semitism in Wisconsin continues to rise ‘at concerning levels’

By: Steve Schuster, [email protected]//June 20, 2024//

antisemitism

A current exhibit at the Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Musuem explains different facets of antisemitism. Submitted photo by Eric Toney, Fond du Lac County District Attorney

Report: Anti-Semitism in Wisconsin continues to rise ‘at concerning levels’

By: Steve Schuster, [email protected]//June 20, 2024//

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The number of reported Wisconsin anti-Semitic incidents rose again for the eighth consecutive year, marking a cumulative increase of 570% since 2015, according to the 2023 Audit of Antisemitic Incidents released Tuesday by the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Milwaukee Jewish Federation (MJF).

According to the federation, there was a 13% uptick in reported anti-Semitic incidents between 2022 and 2023, including a 257% increase in harassment and assaults.

During an interview with the Wisconsin Law Journal on Tuesday, Roberta S. Clark, executive director of MJF’s Jewish Community Relations Council, noted from a legal perspective, employers in Wisconsin and beyond have a duty to make sure everyone is safe at work.

Clark noted that anti-Semitism is one of the oldest forms of hatred and the numbers of both anti-Semitic incidents and crimes are rising at exponential levels throughout the nation; Wisconsin is no exception.

As previously reported by the Wisconsin Law Journal, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, Wisconsin saw more hate crimes in 2022 than South Carolina and Mississippi combined.

Clark emphasized that “when an individual is targeted because of an immutable characteristic it is upsetting to all who identify with that particular community, not just the victim. She indicated the importance of, when a hate incident or crime occurs, focusing on statements of support for the community being targeted and not making general statements about all hate. When Jews are targeted in an incident we need to focus our statements on antisemitism, when members of other communities are targeted, our statements need to focus on those particular issues to support the targeted community.”

Tuesday’s report showed a 433% increase in Jewish institutions being targeted. As previously reported by the Wisconsin Law Journal, Yousef Barasneh, of Oak Creek, allegedly defaced a Michigan Jewish house of worship  Temple Jacob  with swastikas and symbols associated with The Base, a multi-state, white supremacist group, according to court documents obtained by the Wisconsin Law Journal. Barasneh also spray-painted anti-Semitic symbols and language on the building of Beth Israel Sinai Congregation, a Jewish synagogue, in Racine in 2019, according to the indictment.

Meanwhile in Milwaukee, Mayor Cavalier Johnson will be headlining a discussion regarding the targeting of Wisconsin’s Jewish institutions at the JCRC’s annual meeting on June 27.

Additionally, according to Tuesday’s report findings, the terrorist attack by Hamas on Israel had a direct impact on the rise of anti-Semitic incidents in Wisconsin, such as those on college campuses: 64% of incidents occurred post-Oct. 7.

As previously reported by the Wisconsin Law Journal, on June 10, 2024, chaos erupted on the streets and inside the halls of the Wisconsin Democratic Party’s State Convention in Milwaukee as four pro-Palestinian protesters were escorted out the door after interrupting Sen. Tammy Baldwin’s speech.

Throughout much of the day (on June 10) pro-Hamas protesters lined Milwaukee streets in front of the Potawatomi Casino’s hotel, calling for the total destruction of Israel as Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul took the stage inside.

“The only thing we are settling for is an end of the Israeli state,” shouted a Pro-Palestinian protester Saturday.

 

2023 by the numbers in Wisconsin:

Harassment/Threats/Assaults:               + 257% increase

Holocaust/Nazi References:                     + 51% increase

Jewish Institutions targeted:                     + 433% increase

  Youth Involvement:                                       +100% increase

* Each reported incident is corroborated and reviewed. An audit is reviewed by the JCRC’s Antisemitism & Constitutional Law Task Force and the JCRC Board before the final approval process of the JCRC Community Council. The final 2023 audit is based on 114 reported and corroborated incidents that devastatingly reflect the eighth consecutive year of elevated incidents.

Tikkun olam

During an interview with the Wisconsin Law Journal on June 18, Clark said, “The Milwaukee Jewish community needs good people to stand up and speak out against hate. We need good people to be allies with the Jewish community.”

On June 10 when Pro-Hamas protesters at the WisDems Convention called for the total destruction of Israel, only minutes later, Wisconsin District Attorney Association’s Past-President Eric Toney, who currently serves as Fond du Lac County district attorney, called for Wisconsin Democrats to immediately condemn the violent and hateful language used by protesters who were supporting terrorism.

“Every Democrat candidate and elected official at the WisDems convention has a moral obligation to condemn these protestors and any of their supporters that are calling for genocide through the destruction of Israel,” Toney posted to X, formerly known as Twitter.

Also on June 18, Miryam Rosenzweig, president and CEO of Milwaukee Jewish Federation issued the following statement:

“We continue to be alarmed by the sharp rise in antisemitism, but we are heartened by the many in Wisconsin who have reached out and asked to understand how they can support the Jewish community and combat antisemitism. We know that antisemitism often appears differently than other forms of hate and therefore goes unnoticed and unchecked. Therefore, we are committed to providing support to schools, businesses, and organizations to help educate on the shape-shifting antisemitism and how it looks today, an overview of Jewish identity, history and antisemitism for DEI professionals, and tools for businesses and schools to respond to their employees and students when addressing antisemitic incidents.”

On Tuesday, Clark noted the similarities to the KKK wearing masks or sheets to how individuals try to hide their identity in the modern age of the internet.

“The internet sadly creates a successful medium for antisemitism, allowing people to post hateful speech, cyber bully, and issue threats while hiding,” Clark said.

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