EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — Following a recent wave of incidents involving antisemitism across Southern California, the head of the Anti-Defamation League in Los Angeles on Tuesday said the number of hate incidents in the city is on pace to surpass last year's record high.
Jeffrey Abrams, the regional director for the ADL Los Angeles, said he's working on compiling the data before an official release in the spring but has noted an unprecedented number.
"Rarely a week goes by where we don't hear of an incident at some public or private school," he said. "On a very personal level, it is shocking and terrifying, but it inspires my work. This is a moment where we have very real reasons to be concerned, to be concerned about the safety of Jews in this country.
"We need to make sure that no one turns their back."
He said Jewish and non-Jewish people alike have been horrified by recent incidents, including demonstrators giving Nazi salutes and displaying antisemitic banners on a San Diego Freeway overpass in LA on Saturday and the discovery of flyers stuffed in bags on lawns in Beverly Hills, Westwood and Bel Air.
The sign on the freeway was a reference to recent antisemitic statements made by rapper Ye, also known as Kanye West. Abrams said that while he could not yet provide data for 2022 in anticipation of an official release of a report of incidents in the spring, he said he hasn't seen as many reports in recent years, following the biggest spike since 2017.
The ADL's most recent data from April 2021 showed a record number of hate incidents in LA and the state.
In its annual audit of antisemitic incidents, the ADL reported the number of antisemitic incidents in LA jumped 29% in 2021 over the previous year — 182 in 2021 from 141 in 2020. The ADL tracked incidents of harassment, vandalism and assault in that report. Of that number, assaults saw the biggest spike, going from three in 2020 to 14 in 2021.
Across California, 367 antisemitic incidents were reported in 2021, compared to 289 the previous year, a 28% jump, according to the data. Fifteen assaults were reported in the state in 2021, compared to four in 2020, the ADL said.
The condemnation of the recent incidents was swift.
"This weekend's public display of antisemitic hate is another wake-up call to all of us that we must remain vigilant to protect our values and freedoms as Californians," Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a statement. "The former president gave a platform to extremists spewing hate speech and we continue to see the dangerous consequences — from the insurrection on January 6th to Nazi salutes and anti-Jewish signs over the 405 Freeway here in California.
"Our state is committed to protecting our diverse communities and will continue to lead the fight against racial, ethnic, and religious hate wherever it rears its ugly head."
LA City Councilman Paul Koretz said he was disgusted and disheartened.
"Unfortunately, these types of incidents have become all too common in Los Angeles and nationwide," he said in a news release. "As a son of a Holocaust survivor who has made 'never forget' central to my personal mission to lead with compassion and treat all others with dignity, I am incredibly dismayed that this kind of discrimination and hateful propaganda continues to grow in today's day and age. I wonder if this was the kind of thing my father was seeing in early 1930s Germany."
The incidents follow others across the region.
In May, antisemitic messages were found on vehicles in West Hollywood. Also that month, antisemitic flyers were found throughout a Culver City neighborhood. In February, antisemitic flyers were found in Huntington Beach and Newport Beach. Antisemitic flyers were found in Pasadena and Beverly Hills in December.