Pennsylvania governor vows to punish culprits behind anti-Semitic acts

Sign up for one of our email newsletters.Updated 8 hours ago A recent uptick in the number of anti-Semitic incidents in Western Pennsylvania hasn't included the types of threats and vandalism reported elsewhere, the head of one of the region's leading Jewish...

Pennsylvania governor vows to punish culprits behind anti-Semitic acts

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Updated 8 hours ago

A recent uptick in the number of anti-Semitic incidents in Western Pennsylvania hasn't included the types of threats and vandalism reported elsewhere, the head of one of the region's leading Jewish groups said Monday.

"That's the silver lining, if you can call it that," said Joshua Sayles, director of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh's Community Relations Council.

The Pittsburgh metro area is home to about 52,000 Jewish people.

Elsewhere in Pennsylvania and across the country, anti-Semitism appears to have intensified. Vandals knocked over and damaged more than 100 headstones at a Jewish cemetery in Philadelphia over the weekend, less than a week after a similar incident in Missouri.

And on Monday, bomb threats resulted in the evacuation of Jewish community centers and schools in at least 11 states, including York and Harrisburg, according to the Jewish Community Center Association of North America.

Dozens of bomb threats have been reported this year at Jewish community centers and schools.

Sayles said local incidents in recent months consisted mostly of anti-Semitic comments and threats among students and graffiti posted in area schools.

"In a normal year, I'll have one or two (anti-Semitic) incidents that I'm dealing with at any given time, if any at all. Right now, I have seven or eight," Sayles said.

"Why the general community, and not just the Jewish community, needs to be concerned is because people who hate one group of people don't hate just one group of people," Sayles said. "They typically hate multiple groups, and they enable others to target other diverse communities."

Public officials have condemned the recent attacks.

"Any anti-Semitic act or act of intimidation aimed at Jewish institutions and people in Pennsylvania is truly reprehensible and we must find those responsible and hold them accountable. This is not who we are as Americans or Pennsylvanians," Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf said Monday in a statement.

Threats & acts against Jewish institutions in PA are reprehensible. We must find those responsible. Full statement: https://t.co/TOMUcrCm8T pic.twitter.com/UCR4dP99aB

— Governor Tom Wolf (@GovernorTomWolf) February 27, 2017

Threats & acts against Jewish institutions in PA are reprehensible. We must find those responsible. Full statement: https://t.co/TOMUcrCm8T pic.twitter.com/UCR4dP99aB

Wolf said he asked state police and Homeland Security to "offer their full resources towards protecting these institutions and finding those responsible."

We don't take Jewish center threats lightly. Have asked @PAStatePolice & PA Homeland Security for full resources. https://t.co/TOMUcrCm8T

— Governor Tom Wolf (@GovernorTomWolf) February 27, 2017

We don't take Jewish center threats lightly. Have asked @PAStatePolice & PA Homeland Security for full resources. https://t.co/TOMUcrCm8T

In remarks made last week at Washington's National Museum of African American History and Culture, President Donald Trump said the recent anti-Semitic incidents "are horrible and are painful and a very sad reminder of the work that still must be done to root out hate and prejudice and evil."

Seymour Drescher, a distinguished professor of history at the University of Pittsburgh, blamed the rise in incidents on what he called "generally an opening up of resentments" across society.

"People feel more free to express things that may have passed along (without being expressed) beforehand. We haven't reached the point of open violence ... (but) the idea of violence is implied in many of these recent actions," Drescher said.

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