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Report: Anti-Semitism Rose 36% In Wisconsin In 2020

Over the last two years, Jewish Community Relations Council of the Milwaukee Jewish Federation has documented a doubling in anti-Semitic harassment.

Anti-Semitism continues to grow as an issue in Wisconsin. The Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) of the Milwaukee Jewish Federation released its annual report on anti-Semitic incidents and found that over the past year, harassment towards Jewish people rose by 36%. But that upward trend has been happening for years, JCRC chair Brian Schupper says.

“In two years, we’ve seen a doubling of anti-Semitic activity, and prior to that it was a doubling of the two years before that,” he says.

Eric Ward is the executive director of the Western States Center, an organization based in the Portland, Oregon that works to fight back against authoritarianism and strengthen civil rights. He says this rise in anti-Semitic attacks is a trend being seen nationwide.

“The rise in hate crimes and hate organizing is a reaction to the wins of the civil rights struggle in this country,” he says. "And it comes, sadly, with the territory."

Ward says that the fight against all forms of white supremacy has to include pushing back against anti-Semitism because the offensive tropes that white supremacists push onto Jewish people often breeds more hate against other minorities.

Antisemitism at the Heart of White Nationalism

For example, Ward says that the idea that Jewish people are the puppet masters of society and control things like banks or media outlets get used to push narratives that racial minorities are inferior to white people and are propped up by this false idea of all powerful Jewish people.

“This is why, as a non-Jew, I often say that the impact of anti-Semitism isn’t just on the Jewish community, it’s on non-Jewish communities as well. Not just in the sense of a narrative but in terms of real lives,” he says.

Schupper says he doesn’t know if there is actually a growing number of people who are anti-Semitic, but the data shows that more people are deciding to act on and express hate towards Jewish people. That expression of hate, he says, can be used to figure out where resources need to go to fight against discrimination.

Photos of Anti-Semitic Incidents in Wisconsin in 2020

“Often the Jewish community is the canary in the coal mine, and it’s part of the reason we are working closely with our friends and our allies across the political spectrum to make sure this form, and other forms of hatred and ethnic antagonism, are not welcome,” he says.

Developing those connections across communities and organizations is part of how, Schupper says, anti-Semitism can be fought against. He says with any discrimination, it can’t just be those experiencing the discrimination that speak out — everyone needs to stand up.

“You need to call it out when you see it, and we are doing just that and we’re setting an example for other groups that says, don’t live in fear, you’ve gotta call it when you see it, you gotta say, 'This is not acceptable,'” Schupper says.

If you witness or are the target of anti-Semitic harassment, you can report it confidentially to the JCRC.

Audrey is a WUWM host and producer for Lake Effect.
From 2020 to 2021, Jack was WUWM's digital intern and then digital producer.