Frightening Rise in Antisemitic Events


The statistics are alarming, even if they simply confirm what we know, what we feel and what we fear: Antisemitism in America is an increasingly serious and rapidly festering problem. It is not going away. It is getting worse. And we desperately need to address the issue in a meaningful way.

The Biden administration and members of Congress have taken initial steps to develop a plan to deal with antisemitism on a national level. State and local governments need to do the same.

The numbers are scary. According to a recent ADL report, the number of antisemitic incidents across the United States (of which ADL was made aware) during 2023 was more than 2.5 times higher than the number of antisemitic events logged by ADL that we lamented in 2022. There were a disturbing 3,698 ADL-logged antisemitic events in 2022. In 2023, that number blew up to 8,873 events, of which 5,204 occurred in the immediate aftermath of the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel.

As upsetting as these numbers are, they are, unfortunately, not surprising. We are living the horror of rising antisemitism in all of our communities. It affects how we live our lives.

It’s not just the heightened security needs in our synagogues, schools and community centers. And it’s not the concerns we have for the safety and security of Jewish-owned businesses or even non-Jewish-owned businesses that show sympathy for Israel or Jewish concerns. It’s that, according to a recent American Jewish Committee report, nearly one-half of all American Jews (46%) changed their behavior in 2023, out of fear of antisemitism.

It seems to be worse on our college campuses, where 40% of Jewish students report having felt consequences of antisemitism and more than 20% report that they have been excluded from a group or event because they are Jewish.

Many commentators point to the unpopularity of Israel’s right-wing government which features ultra-nationalist ideologues in leadership positions as one of the reasons for the rise in antisemitic expression and to Israel’s heavy-handed pursuit of its war effort against Hamas as another reason for the mounting antisemitic backlash. Some of that may be true. But it doesn’t explain why it has become so disturbingly accepted in American culture for antisemitic pronouncements and hateful comments to be made against Jews.

Here, commentators differ. Some point to an overflow on campuses of radical left professors who dominate academia and promote extremist propaganda and Jew-hating as part of their teaching. Others blame hard-right ideologues, white supremacists, skinheads and others, along with their political leaders, for the incessant promotion of racist and antisemitic narratives that target Jews and foster hatred.

They are both right. And Jews are caught in the middle as they suffer the consequences of anti-Israel backlash on top of Jew hatred.

Antisemitism has a centuries-long history and won’t go away. For now, our best hope is to tamp it down, de-legitimize hate speech of all kinds and work toward some form of better communal understanding and acceptance. In the meantime, the watchword is continued vigilance. We are at risk.

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