Anti-Semitic attacks in New Jersey leave questions, raise worries
January 12th, 2012
09:25 PM ET

Anti-Semitic attacks in New Jersey leave questions, raise worries

By Ronni Berke, CNN

New York (CNN) - Synagogues firebombed and defaced by graffiti. Windows smashed at shops owned by Jewish merchants. Is anti-Semitism on the rise?

The FBI is investigating a rash of anti-Semitic attacks in northern New Jersey, including the attempted murder of a rabbi after incendiary devices were thrown at his home above a synagogue.

Rabbi Nosson Schuman suffered minor burns in the incident Wednesday at Beth El Synagogue in Rutherford.

It was the fourth anti-Semitic incident in the past month in Bergen County. On January 4, a Paramus synagogue was hit by an arson attack, and in December, two temples were vandalized.

No arrests have been made. "We don't know if we're looking at one person or a group of people," said Bryan Travers of the FBI's Newark division.

In November, vandals smashed windows at five stores owned by Jewish merchants in Middlesex County.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie condemned the recent synagogue attacks. "I will not stand for it, and we will summon all necessary law enforcement resources to identify and prosecute those responsible," Christie said in a statement.

The Anti-Defamation League, which catalogs anti-Semitic incidents nationwide, is urging law enforcement authorities to step up security around synagogues. It's offering a $2,500 reward for information leading to the arrest of those involved in the Bergen County attacks.

But Jewish leaders and scholars contacted by CNN could only speculate on why there is a surge in anti-Semitic incidents in the Northeast.

"This year, it did go up, but I'm not ready to draw any conclusions," said Ken Jacobson, the ADL's deputy national director.

But Jacobson said he was concerned about the spike in attacks in New Jersey. "The surge of these incidents in a short period of time in New Jersey is not a conventional kind of thing," Jacobson said.

The type of incident is also alarming, he said. A rabbi attacked in his home is far more worrying than a swastika scrawled on a door. "We are watching very closely," he said.

Economic insecurity and polarization "create the kind of atmosphere where people act out," he said.

According to a November survey by the ADL, 15% of Americans hold deeply anti-Semitic views; that figure stood at 12% in the 2009 survey.

In the poll, 19% of respondents answered "probably true" to the statement: "Jews have too much control/influence on Wall Street." The theme of the "miserly Jew," as personified by Shakespeare's Shylock, is common in anti-Semitism.

"There's a persistent economic theme of the Jew not just as miserly but as economically parasitical," says Derek Penslar, Samuel Zacks Professor of Jewish History at the University of Toronto, and author of "Shylock's Children."

In the 1930s, anti-Semitism was "visible, public and people did not try to hide it," Penslar said. "Jewish bankers were often accused of fomenting wars." Things are much better now, he added. "There seems to be a change in the United States in how Jews are accepted."

Penslar is not convinced that the economic downturn is the main cause of anti-Semitic attacks.

"Things were much worse in 2008 and 2009. I was expecting something then.

"My sense is more often than not what's happening now is related to Middle Eastern politics." Namely, the stalemate about Israel, Penslar says.

Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center cited FBI statistics showing an actual decrease in hate crime incidents against Jews during the most recent recession.

"I don't think there are any obvious explanations," Potok says. "It may be there is a small number of people who are attacking repeatedly, and that just says you have a few very active anti-Semites out there."

Nationwide, the FBI reported 887 such incidents in 2010, compared with 1013 in 2008.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Judaism • Violence

soundoff (459 Responses)
  1. Michael Steinberg

    Come, on people now, smile on your brother! and love one another.

    January 13, 2012 at 4:03 am |
  2. adam

    I don;t think it got anything to do with the peace negotiations stalemate. I think its some emotional kids responding to the settlers stupid reprisal attack on the Muslim sites in the Westbank. Its like dumb and dumber

    January 13, 2012 at 4:01 am |
  3. Marquise

    Senseless violence and cowardice! When are we going to learn about forgiveness and peace? Hatred eventally kills the hater! Shameful!

    January 13, 2012 at 3:35 am |
  4. pedo jew god sandusky

    fake, just like holocaust

    January 13, 2012 at 3:18 am |
  5. Shabbos Goy

    Hey Rabbi, watcha doin'?

    January 13, 2012 at 2:44 am |
  6. Sheikh Muhammad

    Why on earth you attacked jews!!!
    You could have attack muslims, nobody would say anything and you might get some appreciation.
    Just kidding.......but true 🙁

    January 13, 2012 at 2:39 am |
  7. Galvhomme

    $2500 dollar reward?!?! PLEASE one little lady on the synagogue mahjong league probably has that much in her left shoe! That's my people!......LOL. Come on anti-defamation league you can do better that that. Offer about 10K, that should be enough to get one of these freaks to rat on the other.

    January 13, 2012 at 2:35 am |
    • Correction

      Uh, the reward is 2,500 Israeli agorot, which is about $6.

      January 13, 2012 at 2:41 am |
    • Mirosal

      I thought the Israeli "dollar" was a sheckel ... but, I could be wrong. If I am, feel free to correct it.

      January 13, 2012 at 2:43 am |
    • Correction

      An agora is 1/100 of a sheqel

      January 13, 2012 at 2:57 am |
    • adam

      We are short on funding. The money is being used to build settlements in the Westbank.

      January 13, 2012 at 3:57 am |
  8. Johnny Blammo

    "15% of Americans hold deeply anti-Semitic views" – they are all here and posting tonight.

    January 13, 2012 at 2:34 am |
    • griffgirl

      Not true, since probably 90% of that 15% can't read, and the other 10% wouldn't be reading an article like this in the "liberal media" they no doubt believe is just jewish propaganda anyway!

      January 13, 2012 at 2:54 am |
  9. AngryJew

    Jews and Palestinians and anyone else deserve to live in peace and security.

    January 13, 2012 at 2:33 am |
    • Johnny Blammo

      Well, people like Mullah Omar deserve to live not in peace, but in maximum security.

      January 13, 2012 at 2:38 am |
    • AngryJew

      Yeah next door to the Israeli spy Jack Pollard, I get your point.

      January 13, 2012 at 1:46 pm |
    • rzzzll

      Don't drag Pollard into this, he's been made an example of where all the other traitors who spied for other countries are let free. The so called "Filastines" deserve absolutely NOTHING except a one way expulsion back to Jordan from Judea, Samaria, and Gaza. That will put distance between the hostile insane jihadi mentality and violence the Arab invaders live, breath and die for. That will be true Peace, because those animals are stuck in the Dark Ages and brainwashed to hate Jews and Israel.

      January 15, 2012 at 2:09 am |
  10. me

    this is it was probably a muslim but god forbid you blame them for anything anymore

    January 13, 2012 at 2:32 am |
    • AngryJew

      It could have been anyone.

      January 13, 2012 at 2:33 am |
  11. AngryJew

    This is a horrible crime.

    January 13, 2012 at 2:32 am |
  12. BNA

    You know what the Nazis did to people who threatened to desecrate synagogues? They threatened to gun them (the would be arsonists) down in the streets. Maybe if the government decided to take after some of Nazi Germany's policies it would make life better for jews... however Israel already has more than enough support today, so probably don't need to be helping out zionists even more.

    January 13, 2012 at 2:26 am |
    • Jon

      Does your daddy know you're using his laptop?

      January 13, 2012 at 4:14 am |
    • rzzzll

      Obviously this insane anti-Semite BNA hasn't ever picked up an objective factual history book in his life. What you get all your news from the Arab controlled, Jew hating, spewing media and propaganda? Go back to school fool..

      January 15, 2012 at 2:06 am |
  13. mizrah

    it seems we need to call our brethren in hollywood to make another 10-12 films about the holocaust this year.
    and call upon aipac to further modify the school curriculum so these kinds of anti-semitic reactions will forever be purged from the minds and hearts of all american children.

    remember, the holocaust was a worldwide crime, and everyone is responsible for what happened.
    May G-d deliver justice on all white people.

    January 13, 2012 at 2:19 am |
    • Fladabosco

      I know lots of Jews and I have never heard any of them say anything like your comments. I know lots of Jews who drive German cars. They seem to understand that the Nazis were successful because of the horrible poverty in Germany when they came to power and that many of the average German people were victims of them too; not just in the camps but being forced into war. The holocaust is worth remembering and it was different than other genocides. It was better organized and coldly efficient, not just thousands of peasants with spears or a military operation.

      January 13, 2012 at 3:54 am |
    • rzzzll

      You are definitely not a Jew, and if you are, shame on you for being a self hating one. Your lies are vile, disgusting, and totally unsubstantiated. Go to hell.

      January 15, 2012 at 2:04 am |
  14. Really Jersey

    I hope the police catch these freaks. This kind of stuff is an outrage. People have a right to be safe in their own homes. When you catch the arsonists & vandals, apply the hate crimes statute & lock them away.

    January 13, 2012 at 2:19 am |
    • Mirosal

      No, don't lock them away .. they seem to fixated on fire .. ok then, set THEM on fire, see if they like it. It's either a group of kids, or a few rednecks (they are not just in the South). But, isn't Bergen County supposed to be one of the richest counties in the US as far as housing prices and property values go?

      January 13, 2012 at 2:49 am |
  15. manhandler

    It may not be popular to say so, but I think the Israeli treatment of the Palestinians is changing some peoples perception of what Jewish people are all about. And I have to admit that my own perception of Israel has changed from one of great respect to one of partial disdain. Their insistence on continuing to build settlements on land that is supposed to go back to Palestinians makes me look at them as way less than honorable. You can't seperate Israels actions from the worlds view of the Jewish people, even though they are not one in the same.

    January 13, 2012 at 2:19 am |
    • Johnny Blammo

      This pretty much says what I feel too.

      January 13, 2012 at 2:24 am |
    • griffgirl

      I actually agree with you too, AND I'm Jewish. I TOTALLY think that what the Israeli government has been doing with regards to Palestine has only further ostracized Jews from the rest of the world and has further negatively impacted people's views and opinions of Jews as a whole. For what it's worth, I had an Israeli roommate once, and have met several other Israelis in the past who have told me that Israelis in general actually completely disagrees with the way their government has handled it, and think that Palestinians should have their country! Unfortunately this conflict dates back 2000 years, so I'm not holding my breath on seeing any resolution.

      January 13, 2012 at 3:02 am |
    • glennrobert

      Good post! Israel's ability to irritate the local countries is amazing. Policy in Egypt and Turkey is going to be different and Israel had better adjust to it. Meanwhile the Jewish lobby determines our policy concerning Iran! Not good.

      January 13, 2012 at 4:00 am |
    • rzzzll

      Let me remind you dimw/ts that there is no such nation, region, or people called "Filastine" (Arabic name). It's a BIG LIE, they do not have a right to a single inch of the Land of Israel, which in the ancient kingdom included much of the land East of the Jordan that is now in that same named state. Judah, Samaria (which the ignorant media calls the "West Bank", and Gaza are all part of the very core of Jewish life, history, thought, and religion. The Arabs have 22 states, and yet they don't want to absorb them, and use the so called Filastines to wage war as pawns against Israel. The "Filastines", these invaders, land thieves, and terorists deserve nothing, they can go to Jordan. Why's that you ask? Because 80% of the imperialist British "mandate of Palestine" was promised for a Jewish homeland. Then the Brits, the worst and most cruel of colonial empires stabbed Jews in the back who were living in their own land and nation with complete ties and history. The Brits stole this land and gave all the rest of the so called mandate east of the Jordan to their lackey dog Hashemite Abdullah as a consolation prize for helping them fight the Turks in WW I. There never was any "Palestine" or people, its a made up name for made up people. You know why there is not one mention of this by the Arabs illegally attacking and stealing land from Jews was in 1920, after the Kingdom of Greater Syria under King Abdullah collapsed, when the French took Syria and the Brits took the rest. The Arabs till that point all thought "Palestine" was an integral part of Greater Syria, not an independent state or nation. The "Filastines" are the only refugees who have MULTIPLIED in history, because that joke called the UN recognizes the children, grandchildren, etc. as refugees. None their so called Arab brothers in the 22 states would take them in, reintegrate them into their nations, they kept them oppressed, in poverty and suffering much more than Israel even did, which was little. All the children of the rest of the world's refugees are NEVER counted as refugees because they have been integrated one way or another into the countries that took their parents in. Death to Hamas, Death to Hezbollah, Death to Al-Qaeda, and death to Iran.

      January 15, 2012 at 2:02 am |
  16. frank

    I blame white people....they always do this kind of crap

    January 13, 2012 at 1:52 am |
  17. MamaFlea

    You have a nice sense of humor.

    The fact is that all this IS really wasted since no one is really changing anyone's mind about anything. If you hated Jews before reading this article / posts ...you still do.

    If you were the victim of hate...you'd understand.

    January 13, 2012 at 1:48 am |
  18. US -Iran Confrontation

    Just thought I'd ask this esteemed, august and enligthened group of youth for Hitler when this will take place?

    Passover, Yom Kippur or next Hanukkah.

    You're going to blame the Jews for this...er ah Isrealis or ZIONISTS>>>>Ooooh scary.

    Please don't donate any of your organs when you die....they're not functioning all that well now.

    January 13, 2012 at 1:45 am |
    • Huh


      January 13, 2012 at 1:56 am |
  19. Moishe J.

    I would suggest that the people (?) responsible (?) [that is not quite an appropriate word] for doing what was done at a Rabbi's home cease and desist as in "immediately."

    January 13, 2012 at 1:42 am |
  20. MamaFlea

    So sad. All of this thought and emotion (and dare I say intelligence from some?) Wasted in front of computers and smartphones arguing about the world instead of getting off of your asses and making a difference. Bah! I'm now wasting my time!!! Damnit! Sucked me in.

    January 13, 2012 at 1:37 am |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.