NewsCovering Kentucky


Reported antisemitic incidents up in Kentucky in 2020

Posted at 6:47 PM, Apr 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-28 18:53:14-04

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — More antisemitic incidents were reported in Kentucky last year than in any year since the Anti-Defamation League began keeping track more than 40 years ago.

The University of Kentucky's Jewish Center has been a central location for several local antisemitic complaints.

"It often feels like it's an avalanche," said Chabad of the Bluegrass Rabbi Shlomo Litvin.

In November, the UK Jewish Center said their sign was vandalized. Then in December, a Jewish member of the community was dragged by a car during a menorah lighting ceremony during the festival of Hanukkah. Three days ago, they caught a group of people throwing bottles at the center and laughing.

"A Jewish member of the community was assaulted, and is still in recovery. We see this escalation. We saw earlier that year notes of hate being left in people's door posts, and in their mailboxes," said Litvin.

The incidents appear to be a snapshot of the increase in antisemitism reported across Kentucky. In 2020, there was an an 850% increase of reported incidents compared to 2019. There were just two incidents in 2019, compared to 19 in 2020. Four of those incidents reported were in Lexington.

Mindy Haas, Executive Director of the Jewish Federation of the Bluegrass, says the numbers are concerning, but it's important to note that number only accounts for incidents that were reported.

"It is definitely noticeable, but I think it's noticeable around the entire country. I think over the past year, we've been dealing with two types of pandemics, pandemic of COVID-19 and the pandemic of hate, and it has not just been in the Jewish community," said Haas.

She says it's caused an increase in security, but not out of fear.

"Jewish people have been dealing with antisemitism for years and years and the beginning of time, so we build up a tolerance, and we build up. We build up a strength within ourselves to know that with every additional incident that happens, it makes us stronger and it makes us want to fight harder to educate our community," said Haas.

For Litvin, it's all about encouraging people to speak up in order for change to happen.

"Organizations have a responsibility to call out antisemitism, people have a responsibility to call out antisemitism and the university does," said Litvin.