A Star of David fashioned from ice pop sticks hangs from bushes outside the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Nov. 20, 2018.
A Star of David fashioned from ice pop sticks hangs from bushes outside the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Nov. 20, 2018.

Attacks on Jews and Jewish institutions in the United States remained near historic levels in 2018, with physical assaults on adherents of the Jewish faith doubling, the Anti-Defamation League reported Tuesday. 

There were 1,879 anti-Semitic incidents in 2018, down from 1,986 in 2017 but the third-highest level since the 1970s, the Jewish civil rights organization said in its annual audit of anti-Semitic incidents in 2018. The incidents included 1,066 cases of harassment and 774 cases of vandalism. The ADL said 13 percent of the incidents were "attributable" to known extremist groups or individuals.

The year also saw the single deadliest attack on the Jewish community in U.S. history as a white supremacist stormed a Pittsburgh synagogue in October, massacring 11 worshippers. The shooter, Robert Bowers, was angry at a local Jewish charity, alleging that it brought immigrants to the United States to commit violence. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.

Monks pay their respects at a makeshift memorial o
FILE - Monks pay their respects at a makeshift memorial outside the Tree of Life synagogue following Saturday's shooting at the synagogue in Pittsburgh, Penn., Oct. 29, 2018.

The shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue was one of 39 attacks on Jewish individuals in 2018, an increase of 105% over 2017, the ADL said. The assaults targeted 59 victims. 

"We've worked hard to push back against anti-Semitism, and succeeded in improving hate crime laws, and yet we continue to experience an alarmingly high number of anti-Semitic acts," Jonathan Greenblatt, ADL CEO and national director, said in a statement. 

The ADL report comes after a 19-year-old college student killed one person and injured three others during a Passover service Saturday at a synagogue in Poway, California. The alleged shooter, John Earnest, posted an anti-Semitic diatribe online about an hour before the shooting, expressing hatred for Jews and all non-Christians and praising Bowers and Brenton Tarrant, the white supremacist who killed 51 people at two mosques in New Zealand last month. 

'Emboldened' anti-Semites 

White supremacists blame Jews for "white genocide," a conspiracy theory that white people in Western countries are being displaced by non-white races and will eventually become a minority. Earnest echoed the sentiment in his letter.

A sign during a protest gathering on the block of
FILE - Protesters hold a sign on the block of the Jewish Community Center in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Oct. 30, 2018.

Brian Levin, executive director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University at San Bernardino, called the increase in the number of anti-Jewish assaults and homicides disturbing. 

"We are at an interesting crossroads, where Jews, while highly regarded overall, face significant pockets of hardcore anti-Semites who are emboldened toward public, online and even violent displays of bigotry, and the data that captures that shows a clear progression," Levin said.

The Poway synagogue shooting is the latest in a string of white supremacist attacks against Jewish houses of worship that date back more than a decade, according to the ADL.

"It's clear we must remain vigilant in working to counter the threat of violent anti-Semitism and denounce it in all forms, wherever the source and regardless of the political affiliation of its proponents," Greenblatt said.