The Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish civil rights organization that has been tracking attacks on the Jewish community since 1979, recorded the highest number of antisemitic incidents against Jewish Americans last year.
According to the ADL’s annual audit, there were a total of 2,717 antisemitic incidents in the United States in 2021, up 34% from 2020. The majority of these were acts of harassment directed at Jews in the United States, but assaults and antisemitic vandalism also increased last year.
“It’s obviously concerning that antisemitic incidents have risen to historic levels after a relatively modest decline,” said Oren Segal, vice president of the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism. “It serves as a reminder that antisemitism from across the ideological spectrum is a danger in America, and it requires that people take the threat against the Jewish community very seriously.”
Despite a 160 percent increase in such incidents from the previous year, there were no victims of violent antisemitic attacks in 2021.
There were no mass shootings last year, such as the one that killed 11 people at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh in 2018.
Security has been steadily increased at Jewish institutions, educational facilities, and places of worship in recent years.
According to Michael Masters, CEO of the Secure Community Network, the official homeland security and safety initiative of the organized Jewish community in North America, the number of professional security directors working in the Jewish community has more than doubled in the last four years.
The Secure Community Network collaborates with law enforcement and the Jewish community to develop training and security plans for religious institutions and schools. These efforts, according to Masters, have helped to make such spaces safer in recent years, but security threats remain a serious concern.
“We won’t be able to choose the time or location of the next incident,” he said, “but we can choose our preparedness.”
The fact that no one was killed in an antisemitic attack in the previous two years does not indicate a decrease in the number or scope of threats to Jewish lives, according to Masters.
“We must not mistake a lack of casualties for a lack of intent on the part of those who hate and commit violence,” he said. “We’ve seen a dramatic increase in the number of threats we’ve received from people who want to kill Jews, target the faith-based community, or target people of color in this country.”
In May 2021, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) reported a significant increase in antisemitic incidents, which coincided with a military conflict between Israel and the militant group Hamas.
When Israel is involved in a military conflict, the American Jewish community is subjected to increased levels of abuse, assault, and vandalism, according to Segal.
According to Segal, the incidents involve perpetrators who “blame all Jews for what the state is doing.” “Essentially blaming them — Jews, all Jews, whether they support the State of Israel or not — for something.” During a protest in Times Square in May, a man wearing a yarmulke was pepper sprayed, punched, kicked, and hit with crutches. Anti-Israel protests erupted in a violent brawl outside a restaurant in Los Angeles, across the country. Hate crime charges were filed in both cases.
According to Segal, one of the most alarming findings from the ADL’s 2021 audit was that only 18% of antisemitic incidents reported were perpetrated by people known to be extremists or affiliated with extremist groups.
The majority of the nearly 500 antisemitic incidents were propaganda distributions carried out by known extremist groups. According to the report, white supremacists and other groups distributed antisemitic flyers, waved racist banners, and posted stickers or other antisemitic written messages.
However, more than 80% of the incidents in 2021 were committed by people who were not known to be affiliated with extremist groups, which concerns Segal.
“This means that the majority of the incidents this represents are either unknown perpetrators or regular Joes and Janes, which speaks to the normalization of antisemitism as a tactic,” he said. “There are a lot of people who have engaged in anti-Semitism who aren’t necessarily associated with any organized group, and that’s a concern.”