Antisemitic incidents in New England – including assaults, vandalism and harassment – climbed sharply in the last year, according to a report released today by the Anti-Defamation League, which has tracked antisemitic activity in the U.S. for decades.

Massachusetts ranked fifth among all states with 440 such incidents, nearly double the year before, the report found. Nationally, the organization counted 8,873 antisemitic incidents in 2023, including a spike of more than 350 antisemitic acts in the U.S. after the Hamas attacks on Israel in October and Israel’s ensuing war in Gaza.

While the numbers and rapid increase are startling, critics such as the Jewish Voice for Peace are pushing back against the new report and data, saying that the ADL is overstating the problem by conflating anti-Israel rhetoric and calls for Israel to stop its war against Gaza with antisemitism.

“Their view is that criticizing Israel is antisemitism. And that's simply not true,” Eli Gerzon, a resident of Arlington and member of the local chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace told GBH News. “Calling for people who are starving to get aid … and for a ceasefire, there's nothing antisemitic about that.”

Rabbi Ron Fish, the ADL-New England interim director based in Boston, said his organization is not equating criticism of Israel or its actions in Gaza with antisemitism.

“That's normal discourse. That's completely fair game. That is not antisemitism. That happens every day in Israel,” said Fish. “What is antisemitism is when people insist that Zionists as a whole — and it's really just used in place of the word 'Jews' — Zionists are evil, Zionists have no place on campus, (and) Zionists have no place in the society.”

Today’s ADL report says that antisemitic incidents on college campuses in Massachusetts soared from 15 in 2022 to 81 last year, a fivefold increase.

The number of Massachusetts cities and town that saw at least one antisemitic incident totaled 127 last year, up from 71 the year before, the report says. Incidents included vandalism such as swastika graffiti at the West Natick MBTA station and a Taunton synagogue and a bomb threat hoax in Brookline.

“Behind each tracked data point is a family, a synagogue, a school, or a child who has been targeted for hate, simply because of their Jewish identity,” Fish said. “This is intolerable in New England as it is anywhere in the country.”