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February 17, 2015 6:13 pm

Report Says Dramatic Rise in Wisconsin Antisemitic Incidents; Data Released Day After Major Graffiti Spree in Madison

avatar by Shiryn Ghermezian

At least 30 private properties were spray painted with antisemitic graffiti in Wisconsin. Photo: Twitter.

Antisemitic incidents in the state of Wisconsin more than doubled in 2014 compared to reports seen in recent decades, according to an annual audit released late last week, a day after widespread antisemitic vandalism was reported in the state’s capital Madison.

The report noted 33 confirmed incidents of antisemitism last year compared with 13 a year earlier. It detailed acts of vandalism, hate group activity, discrimination, harassment and incidents involving school students. The recorded occurrences included the daubing of a number of swastikas on public and private property, and harassment of Jewish middle and high school students.

The audit was released by the Milwaukee Jewish Federation’s Jewish Community Relations Council, and all incidents were corroborated and reviewed by three separate panels in the Council, according to the organization.

Elana Kahn-Oren, director of the Council, said Jewish officials in Wisconsin saw a rise in antisemitic attacks even before Israel’s Operation Protective Edge last summer but that incidents surged during and after the war, the State’s Journal Sentinel reported. Kahn-Oren said the Jewish community is alarmed by the heightened number of attacks but added that the spike should worry everyone.

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“America is a great place to be Jewish. There is less antisemitism in this country than in many places across the globe,” she explained. Still, “Hatred is hatred. And wherever it goes unchecked, it harms us all.”

The release of the annual report came a day after Madison residents on Saturday faced at least 30 graffiti and vandalism attacks, some of which included racial slurs and drawings of swastikas, local news station WKOW 27 News reported.

One resident, Jim Stein, told Wisconsin television station WISC TV that he discovered on Saturday morning “F*** Jews” spray-painted on a garage door across the street and a swastika on the driveway, Haaretz reported. Other graffiti included a garage door defaced with the words “KKK Bound.”

“It was, of course, extremely disturbing to me,” said Stein, who is the president of the Jewish Federation of Madison.

Madison police said none of the victims saw potential suspects around their homes, according to WKOW 27. They estimate the cost of the damage to be well over $10,000 and have not yet identified the incidents as hate crimes.

“It just looks like it’s malicious damage,” said Officer David Dexheimer with the Madison Police Department. “While some of the things that were painted are troubling, we don’t know that that was specifically targeted to a particular victim.”

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