Anti-Semitism in Greater Boston is not a new phenomenon. Over 100 years ago, Jews were attacked regularly on the streets of Dorchester, Mattapan, Chelsea, Malden and other enclaves.
These days, anti-Semitism has returned with a vengeance. In recent weeks, Chabad congregations have been torched in Arlington (twice) and in Needham; two Chabad rabbis had pennies thrown at them by a Peabody motorist spouting anti-Semitic hate speech; swastikas have been found in schools in Brookline, Newton, Sharon, Framingham, Foxborough, Easton and Westwood. In addition, swastikas were also discovered in a Malden park and on a Vietnam War memorial in Boston.
And that’s just in the past month.
The time has come for increased communication between the Jewish community, law enforcement and elected officials. While the state has a Hate Crime law, it is unclear why more people have not been arrested and charged in connection to anti-Semitic incidents. According to a report issued last December by the Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety & Security, 21 percent of all bias types reported to police in 2017– or 90 out of 438 incidents – were termed “anti-Jewish.” Nearly all took place in Middlesex, Suffolk, and Essex counties.
Under the Massachusetts hate crime statute, there are three elements that define the crime:
• Underlying criminal offense: The offender committed an assault or a battery upon the victim or damaged the victim’s property.
• Offender’s intent: The offender acted with the intent to intimidate the victim.
• Victim’s protected characteristic: The offender targeted the victim because of the victim’s race, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, or other protected characteristic.
Also, the Attorney General’s Office brings civil cases against violations of the Massachusetts Civil Rights Act that have three basic elements:
• Underlying conduct: The perpetrator engaged in threats, intimidation, or coercion.
• Interference with civil rights: The perpetrator interfered, or attempted to interfere, with the victim’s civil rights.
• Bias motivation: The perpetrator’s conduct was motivated by bias against the victim because of the victim’s membership in a protected group or activity.
Jews have the right to hear directly from law enforcement about the process of investigating hate crimes and why so few of these incidents have led to arrests and prosecution. Arson in synagogues, cemetery desecrations, swastikas in schools, and intimidation of rabbis on public streets warrant serious attention from law enforcement and lawmakers on Beacon Hill. While prayer and rallies are helpful, we need to know why most of the perpetrators of anti-Semitic incidents are never identified or arrested.