Nearly Two-Thirds of American Jews feel in Greater Danger Now than a Decade Ago

April 22, 2020

3 min read

Nearly two-thirds of American Jews believe that they are less safe today than a decade ago, according to a new survey by the Anti-Defamation League on Jewish encounters with anti-Semitism in the United States.

The survey found that 54 percent of American Jews have either experienced or witnessed an incident they deem was motivated by anti-Semitism, while 63 percent of Jews say their communities are “less safe” than they were a decade ago.

“Our tracking has shown that lethal and nonlethal anti-Semitic attacks have been on the rise in recent years, and now we’ve also found that American Jews are deeply concerned for their personal safety and their families’ and communities’ security in a way that they haven’t been in more than a decade,” said ADL CEO and national director Jonathan Greenblatt. “It is a sad state of affairs that in the face of widespread anxiety about anti-Semitic attacks, some Jewish Americans are modifying their routines and avoiding public displays of Judaism to minimize the risk of being targeted.”

The survey was conducted by leading public opinion and data analytics firm YouGov in January 2020, prior to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. It was released ahead of Yom Hashoah, or Holocaust Remembrance Day, on Tuesday.

“We recognize the reality on the ground has changed dramatically for Jewish communities, as it has for all communities, in recent months; this survey offers a snapshot of a window in time prior to the coronavirus outbreak that has so altered our daily lives,” said Greenblatt. “We are also assessing the state of anti-Semitism in the current environment and its impact on the Jewish community, and will have additional data to share in the weeks and months ahead.”

Survey does not address role of anti-Israel attacks, rhetoric, violence

In the survey, 49 percent of Jews say they have heard anti-Semitic comments, slurs or threats targeting others, while 21 percent have themselves been directly targeted by anti-Semitic remarks. An estimated 14 percent of Jews have experienced anti-Semitic harassment online.

Roughly half of those surveyed said they were worried that a person wearing a yarmulke (kipah) or other public display of Judaism would be physically assaulted or verbally harassed on the street or in a public place.

Meanwhile, 14 percent of those polled know someone who has been physically attacked because they are Jewish.

Additionally, 22 percent of respondents are affiliated with a Jewish institution that has been vandalized, damaged or defaced because of anti-Semitism.

Moreover, some 27 percent of Jews have employed at least one strategy to avoid being targeted, with the most common strategy (12 percent) being avoiding markers of Jewish identification, including not using one’s last name, or not wearing a Jewish star or identifying as Jewish on a social-media site.

Finally, 11 percent responded having trouble sleeping or concentrating or feeling anxious after experiencing online hate or harassment.

In 2019, American Jews were barraged with news about violent anti-Jewish attacks, including a Shabbat-morning shooting at Chabad of Poway in Southern California by a lone teenage gunman with white-supremacist views on April 27, leading to the death of 60-year-old Lori Kaye; a fatal shooting at a kosher supermarket in Jersey City, N.J., on Dec. 10 that led to four deaths, including two Chassidic Jews, a store employee and a police officer; and stabbings at a Hanukkah celebration in Monsey, N.Y., on Dec. 28, injuring multiple Jewish guests and leading to the death of 72-year-old Yosef Neumann.

The ADL survey omits the role that Israel-related anti-Semitism plays.

“The specific focus of this survey was to document the types of experiences related to anti-Semitism experienced by Jews; for instance, whether people experienced physical attacks, vandalism, etc.,” an ADL spokesperson told JNS. “Whether these incidents were motivated by anti-Israel anti-Semitism was not within the scope of this particular survey and would require respondents to speculate about the specific motivation or subtype of anti-Semitism of a perpetrator.”

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