A new ADL survey may shed light on local antisemitic events, such as the message “Jews Not Welcome” spray painted on a school marquee in Montgomery County.
“People are infected with antisemitic belief, and we’re seeing it play out in real time,” said Meredith Weisel, regional director for the ADL D.C. office. Antisemitism has become normalized.”
The survey, released Jan. 12, “provides a comprehensive snapshot of current antisemitic attitudes in the U.S. that have long circulated and can be weaponized to malign or increase hostility toward Jews,” said Weisel.
It will “help us identify why there maybe is a painted swastika or antisemitic slur in a school hallway; what did that child or student learn that maybe caused them to act out that way?”
In diverse Montgomery County, vandals have painted swastikas on a bench at a bus stop near the Westfield Montgomery Mall and the message “No Mercy for Jews” alongside figures hanging on gallows along the Bethesda Trolley Trail.
The survey, conducted last fall, found that 85% percent of Americans believe at least one Jewish conspiracy theory or anti-Jewish trope, compared to 61% in 2019.
About 4,000 respondents were asked to rate the truthfulness of 14 statements describing different traditional anti-Jewish tropes, Weisel said.
A trope is a recurring theme or motif — “a convention or device that establishes a predictable or stereotypical representation of a character, setting, or scenario,” according to dictionary.com.
The word emerged from art and literature. When it comes to Jews, they are defamatory stereotypes.
Some of the statements in the survey present Jews as clannish, greedy, having more loyalty to Israel than to the United States and having too much control and influence in business and on Wall Street.
Three examples of the anti-Jewish statements in the survey are: “Jews stick together more than other Americans” (70 percent agree); one in three respondents agreed that “Jews do not share my values”; and about 26 percent agreed with “Jews have too much power in the business world.”
“Twenty percent of Americans believe in six or more antisemitic conspiracy theories. The findings are quite frankly disturbing across the board,” Weisel said.
“The questions that were asked represent the most dangerous ideas about Jews that have historically led to a rise in antisemitic incidents, especially the notion of Jewish control over the government,” Weisel said.
Researchers observed greater belief in anti-Jewish tropes among young adults (ages 18-30) in the 2022 survey than in prior research.
“A younger generation holds more of an anti-Israel sentiment and only slightly less anti-Jewish conspiratorial beliefs than older people,” Weisel said.
In 1992, ADL found a 19 percentage point gap between those under 40 and those over 40. One of that study’s major findings was that the steady influx of younger, more tolerant Americans into the adult population had led to an overall decrease in antisemitism. The 2022 survey showed that is no longer the case.
Social media and technology are fueling the antisemitic beliefs and hatred in younger populations, Weisel said. “There’s a lot of misinformation and disinformation out there. We certainly see people like [rapper] Kanye West, whose words are amplified to millions of followers and it validates many of the different antisemitic beliefs.”
West, now known as Ye, blames the Jews for controlling the music industry and taking advantage of artists for profit. “He has 30 million followers on Twitter, which is double the number of Jewish people in the world,” Weisel said.
Many Americans have Israel-oriented antisemitic views — from 40 percent who at least slightly believe that Israel treats Palestinians like the Nazis treated the Jews, to 17 percent who are uncomfortable spending time with a person who supports Israel. Similar studies found that 25 percent in the UK and 34 percent in Germany also believe at least somewhat that Israel treats Palestinians similar to the way that Nazis treated the Jews, Weisel said.
“So we’re seeing it on a global scale, not just here in the United States. It’s not just talking about something that the Israeli government might have done or a new policy put forward. It’s a larger commentary about the delegitimization of the state of Israel, Weisel said.
“Knowing all this helps us combat antisemitism within our own communities, Weisel explained. “The study describes the problem. It really tells us the nature of the size of the scope of antisemitic attitudes throughout the United States.
“Really delving into the findings can help us look at the proactive side, not always being reactive,” she said.
“Can we do more interfaith work, inter-group work? Can we play a bigger role in our communities in creating allies? That can help us all at the community level as leaders. We can help the numbers go the other way, not continue to go up.” ■
The entire study can be viewed online at adl.org/research-centers/center-antisemitism-research
Ellen Braunstein is a freelance writer.