Are hate crimes indicative of a whole society or just crimes of hate?

What did the 9 dead victims of a mass killing in a black church in Charleston, South Carolina [June 2015], and the 6 dead victims of an attack on an Islamic mosque in Quebec [January 2017], and the 26 shot dead in a white small town church near San Antonio, Texas [November 2017], and the 11 killed in a Jewish synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania [October 1018] have in common? Only their innocence; and being victims of scapegoating.

The members of the Pittsburgh synagogue would have listening to the Torah reading about the great hospitality to strangers shown by Prophet Abraham and his wives Sarah and Hajar when the terrorist walked in and began shooting. It appears that he picked that congregation because he heard that they were active in welcoming foreign immigrants to America. This he believed was part of a Jewish plot to take over the US by encouraging lots of non-European white and non-Christian immigrants to come to America.

While the victims were of many different faiths; the church killers, like those who do school killings, were all hate filled, angry males using innocent people as scapegoats. They do not take out their anger on the rich and powerful because they themselves have fantasies of becoming rich or powerful. They just scapegoat all those who are different from them in race, religion, gender, nationality or place of birth.

The shooting massacre of 11 worshipers at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh on October 27, 2018 was the deadliest attack on Jewish people in U.S. history. Some Anti-Semitism has always been present in American society, but in the last two years it has been especially visible.

The number of anti-Semitic incidents and crimes had been declining steadily for almost 20 years of decline. The Anti-Defamation League has tracked anti-Semitic incidents since 1979, drawing on reports from victims, police and news publications. The worst year was 1994, with 2,066 incidents. By 2013, the total fell to 751. It has been rising ever since, with the biggest all-time annual jump coming last year, when the tally climbed 57% to 1,986.

This figure included 160 Jewish community centers and synagogues around the U.S.A. that received fake telephone bomb threats from a mentally deranged Israeli teenager, which should not have been included in a count of real anti-Semitism. The number of physical assaults actually fell 47% — from 36 to 19.

“We’re not necessarily seeing a historic rise in anti-Semitism when you zoom out,” said Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at Cal State San Bernardino. “But the anti-Semites and white supremacists are more emboldened.”

The FBI began monitoring hate crimes, including anti-Semitism, in 1992. It defines a hate crime as a “criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity.”

Anti-Semitic crime has risen and fallen with hate crime in general, consistently accounting for at least half of all those involving religion. Hate crimes targeting Jews peaked at 1,013 in 2008 and declined to a low of 609 hate crimes in 2014. The total increased the next year to 664 and again in 2016 to 684. The 2017 FBI numbers are expected to be released next month.

The Southern Poverty Law Center’s 2017 count of hate groups, released in February 2018, showed that the number of white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups rose to 121 — a 22% increase from the 99 a year earlier.

Does the violence carried out by a small number of extremists represent the more widespread general feelings against Jews? One study suggested that such sentiments are limited and on the decline.

A Pew Research Center survey in 2017 found that of all major U.S. religious groups, Americans gave Jewish people the highest favorability ratings. In the survey, respondents rated Jewish people compared to Catholics, mainline Protestants, evangelical Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, Mormons, atheists and Muslims.

The survey asked a representative group of 4,248 U.S. adults to evaluate religious groups on a “feelings thermometer,” in which warmer ratings corresponded to more positive views, Jews received a rating of 67 out of 100. That was an improvement over the last such poll and “Jews and Catholics continue to be among the groups that receive the warmest ratings — even warmer than in 2014,” the report noted.

About the Author
Rabbi Allen S. Maller has published over 250 articles on Jewish values in over a dozen Christian, Jewish, and Muslim magazines and web sites. Rabbi Maller is the author of "Tikunay Nefashot," a spiritually meaningful High Holy Day Machzor, two books of children's short stories, and a popular account of Jewish Mysticism entitled, "God, Sex and Kabbalah." His most recent books are "Judaism and Islam as Synergistic Monotheisms' and "Which Religion Is Right For You?: A 21st Century Kuzari" both available on Amazon.
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