“For the first time in my life, I don’t feel safe in Australia,” said Rabbi Feldman, a fourth-generation Australian. “I have little children who don’t feel safe playing outside. They’ve already seen too much.”
His experiences are not isolated incidents. An annual report on anti-Semitism compiled by the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, released Sunday, found an increase of almost 10 percent in racially motivated incidents against Jews in the past year, and almost 20 percent over the past two years. The council represents about 200 Jewish groups.
Between October 2016 and September this year, the Australian Jewish council logged 230 incidents of anti-Semitism, an increase of 9.5 percent over the previous year. The incidents ranged from the distribution of leaflets expressing extreme views to street violence.
“It’s concerning to see this rise,” said Tim Soutphommasane, Australia’s race discrimination commissioner. “The difficulty with monitoring racism is that the vast majority of incidents go unreported. So if we’re seeing a 10 percent rise in the number of reported acts, then it’s a concerning development.”
In particular, the council and other Jewish groups are concerned by the rise of far-right activists who are singling out Jews. The group Antipodean Resistance, formed just over a year ago and claiming just a handful of members, has already caused alarm. On April 20 — Hitler’s birthday — the group put up posters at universities and near high schools in parts of Melbourne and Sydney that called for Australia to legalize the execution of Jews.
“That day, the reports of sightings came in early in the morning, and kept coming throughout the day,” recalled Julie Nathan, research officer for the Executive Council of Australian Jewry. “It was like an avalanche.”
Another study, conducted by Western Sydney University in 2015 and 2016, found that while 80 percent of respondents said that multiculturalism was a good thing, almost the same number said that racism existed in Australia.
And the Australian Reconciliation Barometer, which records attitudes toward indigenous groups, found that both indigenous and nonindigenous Australians believed that racism had increased in just the past two years.
“For a long time extremist racist organizations in Australia have operated largely underground,” said Mr. Soutphommasane, the race discrimination commissioner. “But in more recent times, they’ve shown greater confidence and a greater willingness to operate in public sight.”
For his part, Rabbi Feldman said he was trying to bridge the divide between the perpetrators and victims of racial abuse. After the police caught the young man who had hurled the security camera though the Jewish center’s window, the rabbi invited him to the center and explained the impact of his actions.
“We told him about the work we do,” Rabbi Feldman said. “We told him about Kristallnacht, and about the Holocaust survivors in our community. He was remorseful, paid for the damage and committed to changing his ways.”
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