Antisemitic incidents increased dramatically across Montgomery County over the course of 2022, according to recent reports from the Anti-Defamation League and county police. The 109 incidents reported to the ADL in Maryland last year represent a 98% increase from the previous year’s 55 —and over half took place in Montgomery County, an ADL spokesperson reports.
Annually since 1979, the ADL—one of the leading organizations fighting antisemitism globally—produces an audit tracking the number of antisemitic incident reports it received over the course of the year. The data is broken down by state and tabulated into three categories: harassment, vandalism and assault. On Thursday, the ADL published its 2022 report.
Antisemitic incidents are at an all-time high, the report showed, with a total of 3,697 incidents reported nationwide—an increase of 36% compared to last year. Maryland ranked tenth highest in the country with 109 incidents reported in 2022. Comparatively, Virginia saw a 50% increase in reported incidents, and Washington, D.C. experienced a 30% decrease this year.
Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington (JCRC) Associate Director Guila Siegel told MoCo360 that the ADL’s new data “completely validates and tracks” with what her organization has been seeing in its day-to-day work across the state. Headquartered in North Bethesda, the JCRC is a large nonprofit engaged in a variety of policy advocacy efforts and community education programs geared toward supporting the local Jewish community.
Reacting to the spike in reported incidents, Siegel said:
“We have to get beyond feeling shocked and horrified and actually address the problem, dispelling any notions that we’re somehow immune to the trend we’re seeing nationally when it comes forms of hate like antisemitism.”
Siegel added that both local and national data shows incidents related to racism, transphobia and homophobia are also on the rise.
Montgomery County’s 65 incidents made up almost 60% of the total statewide tally, according to ADL Regional Director Meredith Weisel—an increase of over 261% from the previous year’s 18 reports. Weisel said 2023 is already on track to reach even higher levels of antisemitism in Maryland, but she was unable to provide MoCo360 with current data.
Eighteen of the 65 incidents reported across the county last year occurred on school grounds, Weisel said. In February 2023, nine antisemitic incidents were reported within Montgomery County Public Schools in the span of a week.
“We’re definitely continuing to see a pattern of incidents in schools,” Weisel said. “We’re also seeing a pattern of incidents in what we consider white supremacist propaganda—everything from flyers to stickers being distributed across the region.”
County police data mirrors the ADL’s report of rising antisemitism. Montgomery Police responded to 48 antisemitic incidents over 2022, according to an annual report on hate bias incidents published in February—a 65% increase from 29 incidents the previous year. Police representatives did not respond to requests for comment on Thursday.
Recent antisemitic activities reported across the county have ranged from Nazi symbols and other graffiti, flyers and anonymous emails all the way to outright physical assault. In November, the County Council unanimously passed a resolution condemning antisemitism and pledging to support Jewish residents, who make up 10% of the county’s population according to government data.
School and county officials have made statements in support of the Jewish community, and the school district has said it is working to expand educational opportunities for students and staff in light of the recent rise in antisemitic acts.
“We know schools are a microcosm of what is happening across the country and that we must work together to proactively address hate of any kind,” MCPS spokesperson Jessica Baxter wrote to MoCo360 in an email. “These conversations allow us to hear more from our students and their families about their experiences and how schools can best respond.”
She added that MCPS is committed to working with community partners like the ADL and the JCRC to increase education about hate bias and antisemitism.
Out of three antisemitic assaults reported to the ADL in Maryland, Weisel said two were specific to Montgomery County. She said the first occurred in January, when an individual shouted antisemitic statements at a group of people in a Bethesda parking lot and assaulted one of them. The second took place in June, when someone threw eggs at a group of Jewish men walking to a synagogue in Kemp Mill.
Weisel said it’s difficult to pinpoint why the county in particular saw such a dramatic rise in antisemitic incidents, but she cited its proximity to the nation’s capital and its large Jewish population as likely contributing factors.
“This is an incredibly diverse and sophisticated area, but that doesn’t mean it can’t harbor hateful people,” she said. “We really need to be doing more education with our students and faculty to combat the spread of conspiracy theories, tropes and stereotypes.”
Siegel said Montgomery County is home to a very established and highly visible Jewish population. When it comes to tracking hate bias, she said a basic rule of thumb is that “where there are Jews, there will be antisemitism.” She added that successfully combatting the continued rise of these hate-based incidents necessitates a multi-pronged approach shared by elected officials, law enforcement, school leaders, faith leaders, parents and other community stakeholders.
“We need to look at antisemitism not only on its own but as part and parcel of a dangerous escalation of hatred in society,” Siegel said. “This normalization of expressions of hatred that in years past would have been so completely socially unacceptable plays a huge role in what we’re seeing now.”
On Thursday evening, the JCRC is hosting its second of two town halls featuring MCPS Superintendent Monifa McKnight, where local Jewish community members of all ages are encouraged to engage in a Q&A-style conversation with the superintendent about how MCPS can better combat antisemitism in public schools.