|CANBERRA, Australia — On a Sunday afternoon in October, Rabbi Shmueli Feldman was hosting a small
celebration at his home in a Canberra suburb. Suddenly, a car carrying four teenagers swerved in front of the
house. One passenger leaned out the window and cursed Jews before the car sped off.
Rabbi Feldman reported the incident to the police and gave them the car’s license plate number, but nothing came of it.
“They said the men were drunk, and the driver wouldn’t tell them who yelled out the words, and there was nothing further
they could do,” the rabbi said.
The list of anti-Semitic abuses directed at Rabbi Feldman and his community over the past year or two is long. He says he
has been egged, and that a rock was thrown through his child’s bedroom window.
Objects have been hurled through the window of his Jewish center on several occasions: rocks, a chair and, in one instance,
the building’s security camera. In May, he told the police that swastikas had been scrawled in a park near his synagogue, but
the graffiti was not removed until August.
“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.
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.”