U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal was in West Hartford Monday morning discussing a recently-released report indicating a significant increase in anti-semitism and hate crimes.
By Ronni Newton
U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal joined David Waren, CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Hartford and Stacey Sobel, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League CT at a press conference in West Hartford Monday morning calling for collective action in response to increased incidence of hate crimes and anti-semitism in Connecticut as well as nationwide.
“Hate is contagious, and so is caring and compassion,” Blumenthal said. “Good deeds, leadership by example, can help stem or stop the virus of hatred,” he said.
“No community is immune from hate,” he said, calling for $40 million for the Department of Justice Community Relations Service to support activities that include facilitating dialogue, mediation, and education and training within communities as well as support of the police to prevent and investigate incidents, and provide support for religious institutions that have are imperiled by hate crimes.
“The United States of America is not about hate,” Blumenthal said.
What the DOJ’s Community Relations Service does is really the intersection of social work and investigation, Blumenthal said, and it has the enforcement power of the DOJ behind it if needed.
Nationwide, reported incidents of anti-semitism have increased by 36% over the past year, but in Connecticut there has been an increase of doubling over the past year – from 34 to 68. Activity by white supremacists, actions against mosques, against schools, have also increased.
According to a recently-released report from ADL, those 68 incidents in Connecticut in 2022 included 55 incidents of harassment and 13 incidents of vandalism.
Passover, Easter, and Ramadan coincide this year for the first time in several decades, Blumenthal said, creating the perfect opportunity to use leadership by example and call for uniting against hate and support of additional measures and resources.
Waren said that there has been an alarming growth in not only the number of incidents but in the nature of hate crime incidents. “Jewish students are too often being harassed and targeted,” he said, with incidents up over 40% in schools and universities. Murderous attacks have occurred in recent years in various parts of the country.
“This dramatic rise in anti-semitism is often seen through the prism of Jewish history,” Waren said.
Over the past two years, the Jewish Federation has been taking action with a security initiative to safeguard houses of worship and empower members of the community to respond, Waren said. “It’s so important to speak out … to raise the alarm, to reject anti-semitism and bigotry in every form, to provide the Justice Department Community Relations Division and law enforcement with adequate funding, and to ensure that our community is inclusive, safe, and respectful for all.” The tools can provide real and measurable impact.
Swastikas carved into the door of a dorm room … cries of “dirty Jew” … teenagers yelling “The Nazis should have finished the job” and throwing rocks … Nazi salutes … refusing to allow a Jewish student to sign a yearbook. “These are just some of the examples of anti-semitic incidents reported to ADL Connecticut last year,” Sobel said. “Sadly each of these incidents has a profound and life-altering impact on the victim, their families, their schools, and their communities,” she said, and people are afraid.
Anti-semitic incidents surged last year to the highest level ever reported, with over 3,600 across the U.S. – an increase of 36% – but in Connecticut there has been a 100% increase that has impacted one out of every five Connecticut towns. About one-third of the incidents in the state occurred in K-12 schools.
There have been 208 white supremacist incidents reported in Connecticut over the past year, Sobel said, a 115% increase.
According to Sobel, every single day last week there was at least one report to ADL CT of the dissemination of white supremacist propaganda. While 29th in size in terms of population, Connecticut is the ninth in the number of white supremacist propaganda incidents and 11th in anti-semitic incidents.
“Generally hate crimes are under-reported,” Blumenthal said, in part because of embarrassment. While in Connecticut there are somewhat higher levels of reporting, he doesn’t think that accounts for the increase.
“Hate crimes are designed to intimidate and divide,” Blumenthal said, but what the Community Relations Service does is brings the community together to seek solutions. It can have a “potentially gargantuan” effect on communities.
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