Antisemitic Incidents in Wisconsin Leap by 36 Percent Amid Rise in Conspiracy Theories and Hate Group Activity

The synagogue in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Wisconsin’s Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) recorded a troubling uptick in antisemitic incidents during 2020, according to a new report published this week.

The report observed a 36 percent leap in antisemitic incidents during the 2019-20 period, including expressions of hatred directed against Jews, the spread of conspiracy theories and a rise in hate group activity.

There was was a significant spike in expressions of antisemitism in comparison to years prior. “Part of this spike may be attributed to COVID-19 pushing some hateful expression online instead of in person, further illustrated by the spike in social media incidents,” the report commented.

Among the examples cited was an email sent to one Wisconsin mayor following an antisemitic incident that stated, “Lol, the man was right, his neighbor is a dirty Jew and Jews are responsible for organizing violent protests all over the country. This man should have never taken his neighbor’s sign, but these hate crime enhancements are a f***ing joke and makes me hate Jews even more.”

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March 10, 2021 6:03 pm

Nearly 40 percent of the incidents recorded by the JCRC “included reference to conspiracy theories involving Jewish power; Jewish control of the banks, government, or media; Jews being behind the COVID pandemic; and Jews at the helm of global control.”

Of the 12 incidents involving hate groups, ten were concerned with white supremacists. The report mentioned several cases of far-right groups targeting Jews, among them a flyer from the White Aryan Resistance that was distributed on dozens of front lawns. The flyer declared: “Jews Will Not Replace Us! The destruction of the White Race is engendered in Judaic world control. We defy their attempt to replace us with other races.”

Attacks on Israel and Zionism were another feature of the rise in antisemitism. “In 2020, the number of incidents making pejorative references to Israel and Zionism rose 61% from the year prior,” the report said. It noted two separate incidents of “Free Palestine” graffiti daubed on Jewish communal buildings.

Brian Schupper, Chair of the Wisconsin JCRC, told local news outlets that the overall trend tracked in the report was “troubling but not unexpected.”

“I think the thing that just jumps right out at you is the sheer number of audited antisemitic incidents. 99 this year, and actually a doubling from two years ago,” he said.

Schupper linked the rise in antisemitism with racism more broadly.

“If we’re seeing it in the Jewish community you can be pretty sure we are seeing it in other communities as well,” he remarked. “There are some pretty strong ties between an increase in antisemitism and increases in racism, for example.”

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