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Milwaukee Jewish Federation audit finds a near-record high of antisemitic incidents in Wisconsin

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The audit found an increase in antisemitic incidents in Wisconsin middle and high schools over the last year.

A Milwaukee Jewish organization has released an annual audit of reported antisemitic incidents in Wisconsin. The overall number of incidents went down slightly last year, compared to 2020. But the Jewish Community Relations Council of Milwaukee Jewish Federation says the acts have increased more than 450% since 2015.

Jill Plavnick heads a task force that compiled this year's audit. She said one of the troubling trends over the last year is an increase in antisemitic incidents in middle and high schools.

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Jill Plavnick headed a task force that compiled this year's audit of reported antisemitic events.

"Many of them ranging around Holocaust jokes or direct harassment of Jewish students. There was a group of teens — a Snapchat group — and the teens in the group sent video to a Jewish teen stating, 'Face the wall, Jew, and congratulations, you finally found your chance to pull your victim card. How does it feel?'" Plavnick reported during a town hall meeting held on Zoom Thursday evening.

Plavnick said other categories seeing large increases were those trying to link Jews to a COVID-19 conspiracy, antisemitic social media activity and minimalization of the Holocaust. There were smaller increases in negative references to Israel in an antisemitic context and in harassment, threats and assaults.

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Kai Gardner Mishlove, of the Jewish Community Relations Council ,and Ari Friedman, of the Milwaukee Jewish Federation, during Thursday evening release of the audit of reported antisemitic incidents in Wisconsin.

In response to the overarching upward trend in incidents, security efforts have been boosted at Jewish community centers and synagogues. Ari Friedman, director of security and community properties at the Milwaukee Jewish Federation, said the federation is in its third year of giving out synagogue security grants.

"This program has helped synagogues across Wisconsin pay for professional security guards for high holidays, Shabbat, religious schools and other special events," he said.

Friedman said the federation has also helped more than 35 Jewish organizations obtain nonprofit security grants from the federal agency FEMA. He said the government money supplements funds from individual donors and organizations.

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This slide, shown Thursday evening, is from the audit of antisemitic incidents.

Kai Gardner Mishlove, director of the Jewish Community Relations Council, said there's a variety of programs to help people affected by harassment and other incidents. But she said there are also efforts to prevent violence and promote interfaith and intercultural relations.

"We are all in this together, sharing this planet. Many communities are facing hate. One hate is not worse than the other. We are all facing hate, and it's only in alliances and by building solidarity with each other that we're able to confront hate," Gardner Mishlove said.

The Milwaukee Jewish Federation is asking people to help report antisemitic incidents to them or to the police. Here's how:

Chuck Quirmbach joined WUWM in August 2018. He focuses his longform stories on health, innovation, science, technology, transportation, utilities and business.
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