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caption: Rabbi Jill Borodin, left, hugs Aneelah Afzali, with the Muslim Association of the Puget Sound, during a community vigil for Pittsburgh on Monday, October 29, 2018, at the Temple De Hirsch Sinai on 16th Avenue in Seattle.
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Rabbi Jill Borodin, left, hugs Aneelah Afzali, with the Muslim Association of the Puget Sound, during a community vigil for Pittsburgh on Monday, October 29, 2018, at the Temple De Hirsch Sinai on 16th Avenue in Seattle.
Credit: KUOW Photo/Megan Farmer

Anti-Semitic acts near record levels in Washington state

Hate crimes against Jewish people spiked sharply last year in Washington and anti-Semitic incidents nationwide are near record levels, newly released data shows.

"This is the third highest level and number of incidents that we've ever seen," said Miri Cypers, regional director for the Anti-Defamation League's Pacific Northwest region.

Their annual audit tracked 32 acts of anti-Semitic harassment and vandalism in Washington last year. She said extremists spread their anti-Semitic message through printed materials and online, at growing rates.

Washington's reported incidents were the highest among Northwest states.

Nationwide, the Jewish community saw more than 1,800 incidents of harassment or violence in 2018. The most devastating moment came in October, when a shooter took the lives of 11 people worshiping at Pittsburgh's Tree of Life Synagogue.

Cypers said one nationwide trend stands out: 13 percent of the time, the perpetrator was linked to an organized hate group.

"This is really the highest level of anti-Semitic incidents with known connections to extremist individuals since 2004," Cypers said. "So certainly the rise of white nationalism is truly having an impact on what anti-Semitism looks like in the United States today."


She said it will take a full community effort to push down anti-Semitism in the Northwest, including education for kids, robust anti-discrimination laws and speaking out against hate.

"While today a lot of the groups might be sugar coating a lot of their white supremacist ideology, it might seem a little bit more palatable, we're extremely concerned bout the rise in physical assaults that white nationalists are committing, especially using online extremism to really galvanize and take action in the real world," she said.