Sunday, 3 Jul 2022 - 4 of Tammuz, 5782

New disturbing report on antisemitism in the U.S. : four in 10 Jews have had to conceal their identity

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A large majority of American Jews say they heard about the attacks in the United States and elsewhere, and most said they made them feel less safe as Jews in America.

But while American Jews were taking steps to conceal their Jewishness for fear of attack, most Americans of other faiths said they heard little or nothing about the attacks – or about the sense of insecurity they engendered among their Jewish neighbors.

These are a few of the disturbing findings of the American Jewish Committee’s 2021 State of Antisemitism in America report, released just before the third anniversary of the Pittsburgh synagogue attack.

“That one in four American Jews has been the target of anti-Semitism over the past year alone, and that four out of 10 have taken steps to conceal their Jewishness or curtail their activities as a result should alarm Americans,” commented American Jewish Committee CEO David Harris. “Now is the time for American society to stand up and say ‘Enough is enough.’ ”

Ahead of the third anniversary of the killing of 11 Jews at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, the  American Jewish Committee (AJC) released the  2021 State of Antisemitism in America report, based on the largest-ever surveys of American Jews and the U.S. public on their experiences and perceptions of antisemitism in the United States.

This report reveals the scope of antisemitism in America, as well as a disturbing disconnect between American Jews and the rest of the U.S. public on the extent of the problem.

It shows that :

One in four American Jews has been the target of antisemitismthrough in-person remarks, online or on social media, or by way of physical attacks—over the past 12 months. Of those who were targeted, 23 percent were in the West, 29 percent in the South, 12 percent in the Midwest and 14 percent in the Northeast.

Four in ten American Jews have changed their behavior due to fears of antisemitism over the past year, with 22% saying they have avoided wearing or displaying things that would enable others to identify them as Jewish. And a full 17 percent said they avoided going to certain places for the same reason.

While 82% of American Jews believe antisemitism has increased over the past five years, only 44% of the general public agrees—even though 41% of Americans say they’ve witnessed at least one antisemitic incident over the past year.

Most American Jews who heard about attacks on Jews in the United States and around the world during the May 2021 conflict between Israel and Hamas said they made them feel less safe as Jews in America—but most of the general public was largely unaware the attacks had even happened.

While 64 percent of general respondents say they know someone who is Jewish, another 36 percent say they personally don’t know any Jews.

Jews and the general population overwhelmingly believe that the statement “The Holocaust has been exaggerated” is anti-Semitic, and both groups also believe that saying “Israel has no right to exist” is anti-Semitic. However, when asked if the statement “American Jews are loyal to Israel and disloyal to America” is anti-Semitic, 27 percent of the general population surveyed and 14 percent of Jewish respondents said it is not.

“That one in four American Jews has been the target of anti-Semitism over the past year alone, and that four out of 10 have taken steps to conceal their Jewishness or curtail their activities as a result should alarm Americans,” commented American Jewish Committee CEO David Harris. “Now is the time for American society to stand up and say ‘Enough is enough.’ ”

One of the major changes this year was reworking many of the questions so they reflect a very current time frame. The past studies have asked participants to look back over five years, this time, said Huffnagle, but this time people were asked to consider events over the “past 12 months.”

One of the more surprising findings was a 10 percent jump in the number of Jews who perceive the extreme political left as a challenge from previous surveys with 38 percent saying it is a very serious or moderately serious threat. Meanwhile, when asked about the extreme political right, 73 percent of Jews said it was a very serious or moderately serious threat.

Large majorities of American Jews continue to view the far right and extremism in the name of Islam as representing serious antisemitic threats, at roughly the same levels as they did last year. But though only 61% said the far left was a threat to American Jews a year ago, that number jumped to 71% this year.

That shift, along with the fears that arose from the antisemitic attacks in May and the American public’s growing realization that anti-Zionism is antisemitic, should change the way we think about antisemitism.

There are some encouraging signs, according to the AJC: 65% of Americans say they know what the word “antisemitism” means, compared with only 53% who said so a year ago; 85% of the U.S. public now say the anti-Zionist statement “Israel has no right to exist” is antisemitic, a jump from the 74% who said so last year.

‘’The time has come for Americans of all backgrounds and persuasions to realize that antisemitism is multifaceted and multiform, and that no group or community is immune to it. Our leaders must denounce antisemitism even – especially – when it manifests in their own political camps,’’ wrote Avi Mayer, AJC Managing Director, in an op-ed published in USA Today.

‘’Only after antisemitism is tackled resolutely, no matter its form and source, can we have any hope of eradicating it,’’ he added.

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