VIRGINIA (DC News Now) — Antisemitic incidents are on the rise across the country, and according to a new report out of Virginia, the commonwealth has seen its fair share.
The Combating Antisemitism in Virginia report, written by the Commission to Combat Antisemitism, said antisemitic flyers were passed out in more than 100 cities and towns in Virginia just since the start of 2022. It also said that in 2021, there were 411 reported antisemitic incidents, an increase of 71% from 2020.
The report also offered several recommendations, with the main ones focussing on education and law enforcement. Though, the recommendations come at a time when education, specifically around history, is under a spotlight in Virginia.
The report was presented just a day after racist, antisemitic, and anti-LGBTQ graffiti was found at a Loudoun County shopping center. Although it was cleaned up and the Sheriff’s Office is investigating, religious leaders gathered for a vigil and said the action cannot stop there.
“It behooves us to just speak out and take action,” said Rabbi Neil Tow, who leads Congregation Sha’are Shalom in Leesburg. “Education can open our eyes to new ideas, new perspectives, cultures, religions, people that we don’t know, and enable all of us to have empathy.”
Among the education-related recommendations laid out in the report: having the Virginia Department of Education place antisemitism, the rise of the Nazi party, and the Holocaust under its own subsection of U.S. history. Additionally, it said students should be taught about Judaism in world history.
The commission concluded that Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s recent draft history standards did meet those recommendations, but critics said that proposal — which has not been adopted — would diminish African American history and LGBTQ representation in schools.
“Everybody on the list [of slurs written in Loudoun County] was erased in K-12 history,” Michelle Thomas with the Loudoun County NAACP said at Monday night’s vigil. “There is a correlation.”
“It’s important to recognize that those groups also have a history and a story as well,” Tow said.
Among the other recommendations from the report: improving law enforcement training of hate crimes, and the way those incidents are tracked.