“No, dude, are you kidding me? It’s a Jew. I have got no mercy for Jews.”

Those were Richard Holzer’s words when the undercover FBI agents asked him if he’d be willing to call off his synagogue bombing if there were people inside. 

Richard Holzer, would-be synagogue bomber, in an image pulled from one of his Facebook accounts, now deleted.

Thanks to their determination and fortitude, the agents thwarted Holzer’s plan to bomb Temple Emanuel synagogue in Pueblo, CO in 2019. Holzer was ultimately apprehended and charged. In the ensuing deal with Federal prosecutors, Holzer pleaded guilty to attempting to obstruct people in the free exercise of their religion through the use of force, and attempting to damage and destroy the temple with explosives.

A few months later, the sentence was handed down: Holzer would serve 235 months in prison followed by 15 years of supervised release. Stipulations of the release included he would not possess or use any material associated with white supremacy or antisemitism. 

His attorneys filed an appeal on those stipulations, claiming they violated his First Amendment rights. On April 26, 2022 the 10th Circuit ruled against them. Holzer will spend the next 20-some-odd years behind bars, and another 15 as intended — far from the materials he consumed that led him to justify his hate. 

It’s interesting that this decision was handed down erev Yom Hashoa —  on the eve of the solemn international holiday of remembrance of the 6 million Jews who were murdered in the Holocaust by Nazi Germany. 

It’s also poignant timing with regard to the release on the same day of the Anti-Defamation League’s 2021 Audit of Antisemitic Incidents report, compiled by the ADL’s Center on Extremism. The yearly audit covers incidents whether they are prosecutable offenses or not, including assaults, harassment and vandalism — such as the incidents that occurred last October at George Washington High School and the Denver Academy of Torah (to date, no one has been arrested or charged with those crimes). 

The news, while expected if you’ve been paying attention to this column, is not good. There was a 34% increase, year-over-year, of antisemitic incidents. It marks yet another new record high, dating back more than 40 years to 1979 when the ADL first began tracking them. And as in the past, Colorado “outperformed” the average significantly — logging a 53.3% increase in antisemitic incidents between 2020 and 2021. Even more alarming: Adjusted per capita, Colorado ranked 7th overall in number of antisemitic incidents in 2021. 

(It’s important to note — this audit is solely focused on the 50 United States and the District of Columbia and does not track antisemitic incidents across the world.)

Some of the other key takeaways:

  • There was an unhinged surge of antisemitic incidents coinciding with the Israel-Hamas conflict in May of 2021 — an increase of 141% over the same period of time for the previous year.
  • The connection to Zionism and Israel drove a surge of antisemitic activity with propaganda efforts aimed at conflating Jewish identity with the actions of the State of Israel whether or not there was any actual connection between the people and institutions targeted and the Israel itself — an increase of 94% over similarly themed incidents from the previous year.
  • Known right-wing extremists were responsible for well over 400 propaganda distributions in 2021 — an increase of 52% over 2020. The so-called “Goyim Defense League” — a group of pathetic incels with an active presence in Colorado — is one example of such an extremist organization.
  • Incidents occurred in ALL 50 states and the District of Columbia. This is the first time that’s happened. 
  • In 10 out of 12 months (excepting January and February), the ADL tracked an overall increase in antisemitic incidents as compared to the same months in the previous year.

One theme was startlingly clear: antisemitism is inextricably linked to the actions of the State of Israel, regardless of whether or not targeted American Jews are Zionists:

“Harassment also dramatically increased, from 73 incidents from May 10-31, 2020, to 211 during the same time frame in 2021,” according to the ADL’s report. “About 50% of the harassment cases included references to Israel or Zionism. In some cases, Jewish individuals were accosted with hostile comments. For example, on May 13 in New Orleans, a Jewish high school student wearing a yarmulke was harassed by another student who was advocating for Palestinian rights and told him to ‘take his dirty Jew hat off.’ Additionally, Jewish institutions across the country received harassing anti-Israel/anti-Zionist phone calls and emails. In Colorado, for example, a synagogue received a threatening phone call from an individual who said, ‘Watch your back. We are coming for you. All of you. You and everyone in the building. The Zionists and the Jews.’” 

To put it another way: Every American Jew is held responsible by anti-Semites for the actions of the government of another country almost 7,000 miles away, whether we agree with those actions or not. 

Note: Zionism is simply a belief in the right of Jews to establish a homeland in Israel. There are right-wing, left-wing, secular and non-secular Zionists. Using the term “Zionist” as a catch-all is inherently misinformed at best; it’s a term that has been co-opted and warped over the years by those seeking cover for their antisemitic beliefs. From the report: “ADL is careful to not conflate general criticism of Israel or anti-Israel activism with antisemitism. However, Israel-related harassment of identifiable groups or individuals may be included when the harassment incorporated anti-Jewish references, accusations and/or conspiracy theories, or when American Jews are demonized for their real or perceived support of Israel. ADL also included cases of picketing of Jewish religious or cultural institutions for their purported support for Israel.”

Perhaps the most sobering part of this audit is the fact that it’s at least partially at the mercy of the reporting procedures of local, state and federal law enforcement organizations (LEOs). There are no standards applied across all jurisdictions for how reporting is provided to the FBI, and many local LEOs don’t provide this data at all. The most recent release of the FBI’s annual Hate Crime Statistics report in 2020 showed an overall increase in the number of hate crimes, despite the fact that fewer LEOs were actually providing data to the FBI than in previous years. The ADL’s report called out this fact as a policy recommendation, encouraging better education for local LEOs on how to identify, track and report hate crime data. 

Lest it be lost amid all the hate crime that occurs on U.S. soil, it’s also extremely concerning that for several years, American Jews have remained the most targeted ethnic group for hate crimes in this country, per capita

On Yom Hashoah, remember that the number of Jews in the world still remains fewer than were alive prior to the Holocaust. The creeping scourge of antisemitism — ever-present for millennia — has continued to pick up speed in the last five years, with little reason to see it abating. The question remains: how committed are you to embracing our call to action?:

Never Again.