Jewish Communities Experience 'Increasing Sense of Emergency' as Number of Anti-Semitic Attacks Spikes

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Hannah Kaye (left), daughter of San Diego synagogue shooting victim Lori Gilbert Kaye, is comforted as she mourns while Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein (center), who was wounded by the gunman, walks past, during a graveside service in San Diego, on August 29. Mario Tama/Getty Images

The number of anti-Semitic attacks shot up around the world last year, killing the largest number of Jews in decades and creating an "increasing sense of emergency" among Jewish communities, according to new research released Wednesday.

Researchers from Tel Aviv University, in Israel, noted that there were around 400 anti-Semitic attacks perpetrated worldwide in 2018 alone, an increase of around 13 percent from the year before. Around a quarter of all of the violent attacks against Jews took place in the United States, but Western Europe saw the biggest increase in the number of attacks, according to the researchers. Germany, for example, saw a 70 percent rise in the number of anti-Semitic violence.

The research was released shortly before Holocaust Remembrance Day, and less than one week after a deadly attack at the Chabad of Poway synagogue, in San Diego.

Questions of anti-Semitism and the use of anti-Semitic tropes have dominated political debates in both the United States and the United Kingdom over the past year. In Britain, the leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, was criticized this week for writing a glowing endorsement for a book by economist John Hobson that blamed the Jews for imperialism.

As white nationalism has experienced a resurgence in both the U.S. and Europe over the past several years, advocates and experts are wondering how to discourage the promotion of anti-Semitic language and stereotypes in public discourse, including conspiracy theories that claim that Jews control the world.

Some experts note that these conspiracy theories can be used as a justification for perpetrating anti-Semitic violence. When a gunman killed 11 people at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh last year, for example, he cited conspiracy theories about Jews resettling nonwhite immigrants in the United States as one of the reasons for his attack. He also posted anti-Semitic hate speech in internet forums prior to the attack.

On Tuesday, President Donald Trump released a statement, intended to mark Jewish American Heritage Month, in which he condemned the rise of anti-Semitic attacks in the U.S, including the attack in Pittsburgh.

"Unconscionably, rates of anti-Semitic hate crimes have risen globally, and Jewish institutions have been vandalized and violently attacked," Trump said in the statement.

"This past October, we mourned alongside our Jewish brothers and sisters following the attack at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in which 11 worshippers were killed, making it the deadliest attack against Jews in American history," the statement continued. "Then, on the sixth-month anniversary of that horrific attack and on the last day of Passover, we grieved as the Chabad of Poway Synagogue was the target of yet another act of anti-Semitic violence, in which one worshipper lost her life and three others were wounded. As Americans, we unequivocally condemn the pernicious, baseless hatred that is anti-Semitism."

But some, including Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, have said that Trump's presidency has created an atmosphere that allows anti-Semitism to flourish.

"The occupant of the White House...and his allies are doing everything that they can to distance themselves and misinform the public from the monsters that they created that is terrorizing the Jewish community and the Muslim community," Omar said during a rally in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday.

Omar has also been criticized for using what some observers considered anti-Semitic tropes. She later apologized for her comments.