Recent bomb threats in New Mexico and Colorado, and ADL statement

by NMJJ staff

 A series of bomb threats from one individual were directed at synagogues in late May and early June. Two of the synagogues are in Las Cruces and in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and one is in Denver, Colorado.
    Jeremy Shaver, Senior Associate Regional Director of the ADL Mountain States, provided the written statement below. Given the topic’s sensitive nature, the ADL is understandably careful in what it shares.
       Shaver said in a follow-up conversation that there were no political statements in the content of the emails, so there was no way to determine the sender’s political affiliations. He said that there were no statements against Israel or in support of Hamas.
Based on past events, this does draw the inference that this may be the kind of antisemitic hate associated with the extreme right.
      The bomb threats were received by the synagogues by email, in what was determined later to be “swatting.” What that means is that the threats were delivered by co-opting another person’s email so that it appeared to be coming from them, when they had no knowledge that this was being done. 

Background on recent bomb threats

By Jeremy Shaver

Jeremy Shaver is the Senior Associate Regional Director of the ADL Mountain States Region (serving CO, NM, WY).

Three synagogues received emailed bomb threats between May 25 and June 4.

The emails were from the same sender and had similar, but not identical content. The emails claimed that the sender had explosives and guns and that the sender intended on killing as many people as possible. A date for the alleged attacks was provided in each email. The emails also contained antisemitic slurs. 

Based on the address and email used to send the bomb threat, the assessment by the ADL's Center on Extremism is that the incidents are likely a swatting attempt.

According to ADL's 2023 Audit of Antisemitic Incidents, there was a dramatic spike in antisemitic bomb threats reported across the country in 2023. There were 1,009 bomb threats reported, which is a massive increase (+1,008%) over the 91 bomb threats recorded in 2022.

It is important to remember that all of these statistics are not just numbers. There is an innocent person or Jewish institution behind every one of these threats and we need to recognize the impact of rising antisemitism. Real lives are disrupted by these antisemitic threats. We need everyone to recognize antisemitism for the true threat it is not only to Jews, but to our entire society. The Jewish community cannot fight this hate alone.

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The following press release, "Antisemitic Incidents Surge in New Mexico in 2023" was also prepared by the ADL Mountain States Region and is included here in its entirety:

Antisemitic Incidents Surge in New Mexico in 2023

Anti-Jewish incidents in NM reach highest level in three decades

Denver, CO, April 16, 2024

Antisemitic incidents reported in 2023 in New Mexico reached their highest level in more than three decades, according to new data released today by ADL (Anti-Defamation League). A total of 31 antisemitic incidents were reported in the state in 2023. Nationwide, antisemitic incidents surged to historic levels in 2023, with a total of 8,873 incidents reported across the United States, an increase of 140 percent from 2022, which is the highest level recorded since ADL began tracking this data in 1979.

The number of reported incidents of anti-Jewish harassment and vandalism increased from 8 in 2022 to 31 in 2023, a 288 percent increase. The 2023 level was the second highest recorded since ADL began tracking this data in 1979. The highest level on record for New Mexico is 42 antisemitic incidents in 1992.

ADL Mountain States Regional Director Scott Levin issued the following statement:

The staggering increase in reported antisemitic incidents in 2023 is alarming. Unfortunately, it only tells a part of the story. Behind each reported incident is a Jewish individual who was personally targeted with harm because of their identity, or a Jewish institution that was targeted because it is a place where Jewish people congregate and pray. These stories must not be forgotten or overlooked. It is unacceptable that hatred of Jews continues to grow at a dangerous pace. We need everyone to recognize antisemitism for the true threat it is not only to Jews, but to our entire society. The Jewish community cannot fight this hate alone.

 Among the reports the ADL Mountain States Region received in 2023: 

 New Mexico

  • A Jewish student at the University of New Mexico was called “kike” while counterprotesting an anti-Israel rally.
  • A student drew a swastika on a cabinet in a Jewish teacher’s classroom.
  • Fake blood, a fake body bag and anti-Israel graffiti was spray-painted in front of a Jewish-owned art gallery.
  • A student experienced antisemitic harassment at school from another student who displayed photos of ovens.

The 2023 ADL Audit identified:

▪ 26 cases of harassment in New Mexico

▪ 5 cases of vandalism in New Mexico

Nationally, the ADL Audit of Antisemitic Incidents also recorded a dramatic spike of 5,204 antisemitic acts post-Oct. 7, reflecting a global trend as Jewish communities worldwide face heightened tensions and hatred in response to the Hamas massacre and conflict – on campuses, in the public square and at anti-Israel demonstrations. With those incidents, the 12-month total for 2023 surpassed the totals of all the past three years combined and averaged about 24 anti-Jewish incidents in the U.S. per day.

In response to the new findings, ADL called on governor’s offices across the country to create their own state-level versions of the White House’s landmark National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism, the first of its kind, a comprehensive effort to address antisemitism from across the political spectrum.

“Antisemitism is nothing short of a national emergency, a five-alarm fire that is still raging across the country and in our local communities and campuses,” said Jonathan Greenblatt, ADL CEO. “Jewish Americans are being targeted for who they are at school, at work, on the street, in Jewish institutions and even at home. This crisis demands immediate action from every sector of society and every state in the union. We need every governor to develop and put in place a comprehensive strategy to fight antisemitism, just as the administration has done at the national level.”

According to the ADL Center on Extremism, which leads Audit research and data collection, incidents increased in all three categories: Incidents of harassment surged by 184 percent compared to 2022; acts of vandalism rose 69 percent; and physical assaults jumped 45 percent.

 Major Findings

In 2023, ADL counted antisemitic incidents in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The Audit classifies incidents into three categories:

  • Assaults: 161 incidents were categorized as assault, defined as cases where Jewish people (or people perceived to be Jewish) were targeted with physical violence accompanied by evidence of antisemitic animus. This was a 45 percent increase compared to 2022. Most antisemitic assaults (141 out of 161) were perpetrated without the use of a deadly weapon. Orthodox Jews were targeted in 34 percent of assault incidents nationally. The 161 incidents of assault targeted 196 victims, none of which were fatal. 
  • Harassment: 6,535 incidents were categorized as harassment, defined as cases where one or more Jewish people (or people perceived to be Jewish) were harassed with antisemitic slurs, stereotypes or conspiracy theories. Acts of harassment increased 184 percent, up from 2,298 incidents in 2022.
  • Vandalism: 2,177 incidents were categorized as vandalism, defined as cases where property was damaged along with evidence of antisemitic intent or had an antisemitic impact on Jews. Acts of antisemitic vandalism increased 69 percent from the 1,289 incidents reported in 2022. Swastikas, which are generally interpreted as symbols of antisemitic hatred, were present in 1,117 of these incidents, up 41 percent from last year.

There were 1,987 incidents targeting Jewish institutions such as synagogues, Jewish community centers and Jewish schools, an increase of 237 percent from 589 in 2022. This significant increase was in part due to the dramatic spike in antisemitic bomb threats, the vast majority of which targeted synagogues in the fall. In total, synagogues experienced 73 percent of all incidents affecting Jewish institutions in 2023.

Antisemitic activity reported on college and university campuses increased by 321 percent from 2022. In non-Jewish K-12 schools, 1,162 incidents were reported, an increase of 135 percent.

The states with the highest number of incidents were California (1,266)New York (1,218)New Jersey (830)Florida (463) and Massachusetts (440). Combined, these five states accounted for 48 percent of the total incidents.

“Despite these unprecedented challenges, American Jews must not give in to fear,” Greenblatt said. “Even while we fight the scourge of antisemitism, we should be proud of our Jewish identities and confident of our place in American society. It may not feel so right now, but we have many more allies than enemies. And we call on all people of good will to stand with their Jewish friends and neighbors. We need your support and your allyship.” 

White Supremacist Propaganda

The report also found an increase in activity by organized white supremacist groups, who were responsible for 1,161 antisemitic propaganda distributions last year – an increase from the 852 propaganda incidents attributed to white supremacist groups in 2022.

 Bomb Threats and Swatting

Bomb threats toward Jewish institutions increased dramatically, with a total of 1,009 bomb threats – the highest number ever recorded and an increase of over 1,000 percent from 91 in 2022.

Additionally, swatting was increasingly used as a tactic to intimidate and harass minority communities, with 101 swatting incidents targeting Jewish institutions.

 “The massive volume of incidents we documented in 2023 took many forms, including bomb threats and swatting campaigns, all aimed at terrorizing the community by disrupting services and activities at synagogues and other Jewish institutions across the country,” said Oren Segal, Vice President of the ADL Center on Extremism. “Our tracking of a swatting network, enabled ADL to offer crucial intelligence to law enforcement, ensuring accountability for perpetrators, while also preemptively alerting targeted communities and mitigating potential harm.”

 Anti-Zionism and Incidents at Anti-Israel Protests

Of the 8,873 incidents in 2023, 3,162 (36 percent of the total) specifically contained elements referencing Israel or Zionism. This is significantly higher than the 241 incidents reported in 2022, which accounted for 6.5 percent of the total incidents.

Israel-related antisemitic incidents most often took place in public areas, with 1,540 incidents in locations like libraries, public transportation and on the streets. Another 644 Israel-related incidents took place on college and university campuses. Jewish institutions were targeted in Israel-related incidents on 377 occasions and 156 Israel-related incidents took place at K-12 schools.

Beginning immediately after Oct. 7, many anti-Israel organizations began protests and campaigns across the United States that continued through the end of 2023. The rhetoric used at these rallies included the promotion of classic antisemitic tropes, signage equating Judaism or Zionism with Nazism, unapologetic support for terrorism, glorification of terrorist groups and extreme anti-Zionism.

Methodology

The ADL Audit includes both criminal and non-criminal acts of harassment and intimidation, including distribution of hate propaganda, threats and slurs, as well as vandalism and assault. Compiled using information provided by victims, law enforcement and community leaders, and evaluated by ADL’s professional staff, the Audit provides a regular snapshot of one specific aspect of the Jewish-American experience while identifying possible trends in the types of activity reported.

ADL’s 2023 Audit numbers contain 1,350 incidents included post-October 7 when ADL updated its methodology to include certain expressions of opposition to Zionism, as well as support for resistance against Israel or Zionists that could be perceived as supporting terrorism or attacks on Jews, Israelis or Zionists.  Excluding incidents included under the methodology update, ADL tabulated 7,525 incidents, a 103-percent increase in antisemitic incidents from the incident total in 2022.

The complete dataset for antisemitic incidents for 2016-2023 is available on ADL’s H.E.A.T. Map, an interactive online tool that allows users to geographically chart antisemitic incidents and extremist activity.

The Audit offers a snapshot of one of the ways American Jews encounter antisemitism, but a full understanding of antisemitism in the U.S. requires other forms of analysis as well, including public opinion polling, assessments of online antisemitism and examinations of extremist activity, all of which ADL offers in other reports, such as the ADL Survey of Antisemitic Attitudes in America 2024Campus Antisemitism: A Study of Campus Climate Before and After the Hamas Terrorist AttacksADL Global 100Online Hate and Harassment: The American ExperienceMurder and Extremism and White Supremacist Propaganda.  

ADL is the leading anti-hate organization in the world. Founded in 1913, its timeless mission is to stop the defamation of the Jewish people and to secure justice and fair treatment to all.” Today, ADL continues to fight all forms of antisemitism and bias, using innovation and partnerships to drive impact. A global leader in combating antisemitism, countering extremism and battling bigotry wherever and whenever it happens, ADL works to protect democracy and ensure a just and inclusive society for all. ADLs Mountain States Region covers Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming. More at mountainstates.adl.org 

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