State ranks 7th in the nation for anti-Semitic acts Anti-Defamation League sees good news in 30 percent drop

February 07, 1992|By Nelson Schwartz | Nelson Schwartz,Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON -- Despite a 30 percent drop, Maryland ranked among the worst states in the nation for anti-Semitic incidents last year, according to the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith.

In a survey released yesterday, anti-Jewish acts across the country rose to a record 1,879 -- up 11 percent from 1990 -- the highest figure in the report's 13-year history.

Maryland, which has been among the 10 worst states for a decade, ranked seventh with 78 incidents.

"The decline in the number of reported local incidents is good news," said David Friedman, director of the ADL's Washington regional office. "But it is overshadowed by the very troubling national trend."

Mr. Friedman said there was a rising tide of anti-Semitism in America as well as a greater willingness to voice sentiments that would have been taboo in the past.

"Across our society," he said, "there is a broad breakdown in the level of civility."

For a generation, Mr. Friedman said, Americans have ignored the responsibility to teach their children not to be intolerant. Now, he said, "we're reaping that harvest."

Although the survey recorded only anti-Semitic acts, he emphasized that intolerance was directed against blacks, Hispanics, Asians and others as well. "There is a spillover effect on other communities," he said.

Mr. Friedman also blamed what he called "pervasive stereotypes in popular culture" for the phenomenon, especially a tendency ,, "on television to score cheap points by making ethnic humor a staple."

In Maryland, Mr. Friedman said, the bulk of the incidents tended to consist of hate mail, verbal harassment and vandalism -- crimes where the perpetrator is hard to catch and arrests are rare. Many of the local incidents, Mr. Friedman said, took place in Montgomery County and in the Baltimore area.

Trying to explain Maryland's rank in the audit, Mr. Friedman said that "with a fairly large Jewish population, you're going to have incidents." He emphasized that while this didn't "make it acceptable or tolerable, incidents tend to occur where you have large concentrations of Jewish people."

The report came as no surprise to Rabbi Donald Berlin of Baltimore's Temple Oheb Shalom, who said, "We find it both increases and recedes at different times, depending upon conditions -- anything from the economy to international events relating to the Jewish community."

"Every time we think it is getting better, we see some decline," the rabbi said. "But it is not a pendulum that swings all the way back."

New York had the most cases of anti-Jewish bias, followed by California and New Jersey.

Figures were compiled from a variety of sources, including human relations agencies, law enforcement offices, the media and the victims themselves.

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