The Community Security Initiative secures synagogues and Jewish institutions. The Anti-Defamation League has been fighting anti-Semitism since 1913.

“We come back from a weekend, and there’ll be like 70 Incident Reports waiting for us. It’s insane,” said Scott Richman, Regional Director for the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) that covers New York and New Jersey. “It’s not that big of a team dealing with all of this. It’s not slowing down.”

There was an over 500% increase in the fourth quarter of 2023 compared to the previous quarter, according to the ADL.

The ADL’s Incident Reports are filed on their website or by calling their office. They’re not just for reporting physical attacks but also anti-Semitism in schools, campuses, on social media, in workplaces, subways, and streets. “It doesn’t have to be a hate crime. Hate crimes are the most extreme form of anti-Semitism,” said Richman.

The NYPD’s Hate Crime Task Force should be contacted first if a victim of a physical hate crime. “The laws in New York State have a high bar with hate crimes,” said Richman. The intent of the perpetrator must be proven, showing the victim was attacked because of his or her identity, not just because the victim looked visibly Jewish.

 “The vast majority of what we help people are not crimes. They fall into the broad category of harassment. In many cases, we’re the only people they can turn to. The law enforcement is not going to care about harassment. It’s not a crime, at least in many cases.” Richman regularly “has conversations with the DA’s office to see where they are at.”

ADL Regional Director Scott Richman

Hate crime laws only began to be instituted in the 1990s, and 46 states now have them due to advocacy by the ADL, said Richman. New York consistently ranks very high in hate crimes in America.

NYPD data showed 69 anti-Semitic hate crimes reported in October 2023 alone, a drastic rise from previous months. Not all hate crimes get reported. FBI Director Christopher Wray issued a dire warning, saying anti-Semitism was reaching “historic levels.”

The ADL monitors “The Dark Web,” provides “intelligence to the Jewish community,” and “does a lot of training with law enforcement,” said Richman.

The ADL’s “Not On My Campus” gives parents and students “all kinds of advice for students on how to react to different [forms of] anti-Semitism they may encounter.” Data on what’s happening on campuses, model Op-Eds to send to newspapers, and letters to university presidents are there. “There’s a whole compilation of ways that parents can get involved in an issue.”

The ADL’s “Tabletop” is “how to have conversations with young people about a wide range of issues including anti-Semitism, including the Israel-Hamas War, and lots of other issues.”

L-R: Bill Hayes, CSI Regional Security Director for Bronx and Westchester; NYPD officer at the 100th precinct; Seth Goodstein, CSI Regional Security Director for Queens

The ADL’s Campus Anti-Semitism Card “shines a light on what campuses should be doing.” The ADL developed “all kinds of curriculums” for schools to fight hate.

“We came out with a uniform administrative policy we think every university should adopt.” The policies grew out of the White House’s recommendations last spring on how to fight anti-Semitism, said Richman of the ADL.

“The campus report card is essentially a distillation of how well universities are implementing those policies. Princeton, SUNY Purchase, and SUNY New Paltz recently took action.”

Richman “is personally working with many universities this summer” to prepare for the fall semester at colleges. Hopefully, they will “be more prepared to enforce their own time, place, and manner restrictions.”

“We’re not just reacting to stuff, we’re very proactive.” The ADL is currently working with about 400 schools in New York and New Jersey.

Three months after October 7, anti-Semitic incidents skyrocketed 361% compared to the same period last year, according to a poll by the ADL.

If the Israel-Hamas War ends, “it will lose some of its sails” but “the genie is out of the bottle. I can’t imagine going back to exactly what it was, like before, at least not for some time,” said Richman.

The Community Security Initiative (CSI) does safety assessments and applies for Federal or State grants to protect synagogues, summer camps, Hillels on college campuses, museums, and other Jewish institutions.

“Locations get about a 30-page report about all their vulnerabilities in their institutions and suggestions and how to remedy them,” said Mitchell Silber, Executive Director of CSI.

CSI’s “Power of Hello” training “can help vet whether someone is a threat or not” in a non-threatening and non-derogatory manner.

CSI’s De-escalation Training teaches tactics and strategies when interacting with someone with a hostile attitude, “short of calling the police.”

CSI’s Real Time Communication System lets people “know if there is something they need to be aware of and if they need to take a particular precaution,” said Silber.

Since October 7, 2023, CSI has been “overwhelmed with requests for assistance. It’s been a tidal wave of requests.” UJA increased their funding by $4.5 million “to help us meet the need,” said Silber.

The CSI was created in 2019 by the United Jewish Appeal and the Jewish Community Relations Council after 14 Jews were murdered by shootings in Monsey, Jersey City, Poway, California, and the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh.

 By David Schneier