Pittsburgh Shooting, a Year Later Fearing for Their Safety, Third of U.S. Jews Say Shun Stars of David and Skullcaps

Concerns about growing anti-Semitism in the United States seem to be somewhat more pronounced among non-Orthodox Jews and those who vote Democrat

Jewish students at the Park East Synagogue, March 3, 2017, New York City
Drew Angerer / AFP

Nearly nine out of 10 American Jews say anti-Semitism is a problem in the United States today, with more than a third describing it as a serious problem, according to a survey published Wednesday by the American Jewish Committee.

The poll — timed to coincide with the one-year anniversary of the massacre at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, which falls this Sunday — found that nearly one in three American Jews avoid publicly wearing, carrying or displaying items that might identify them religiously, while one-quarter avoid places, events or situations out of concern for their safety as Jews.

The views expressed in the survey cut across religious denominations and political affiliations, though levels of concern about growing anti-Semitism in the United States seem to be somewhat more pronounced among non-Orthodox Jews and those who vote for the Democratic Party.

According to the survey, most American Jews see anti-Semitism on the far right as a bigger threat than on the far left. Nearly three-quarters of respondents expressed disapproval of President Donald Trump’s handling of the threat of anti-Semitism.

“American Jews could not be clearer about the reality of anti-Semitism in the U.S.," the CEO of the American Jewish Committee, David Harris, said about the findings. "Our survey provides, for the first time, an in-depth assessment of American Jewish perceptions of, and experiences with, anti-Semitism in their own country. This hatred is real, comes from multiple sources, and is growing. It needs to be taken seriously and dealt with in a sustained, multipronged response.”

The survey was conducted by telephone in September and October by SSRS, an independent research company, among a representative sample of 1,283 respondents 18 and older.

The following are its key findings:

* Among respondents, 50 percent described anti-Semitism in the United States as “somewhat” of a problem, while 38 percent termed it a “very serious” problem. Asked whether they thought it had increased over the past five years, 43 percent said that it had “a lot” and 41 percent said “somewhat.” Forty-two percent defined the status of Jews in the United States today as “less secure” than it was a year ago.

* Broken down by Jewish denomination, 84 percent of ultra-Orthodox Jews, 80 percent of Modern Orthodox, 91 percent of Conservative, 94 percent of Reform, 92 percent of Reconstructionist and 87 percent of secular Jews said anti-Semitism in the United States was a very serious or somewhat of a problem. Broken down by political affiliation, 93 percent of Democrats, 87 percent of Independents and 75 percent of Republicans defined it as such.

* More than one-third of respondents said they had experienced some form of anti-Semitism over the past five years; 2 percent said they had been the targets of anti-Semitic physical attacks, 23 percent of anti-Semitic remarks and 20 percent of anti-Semitic attacks online.

* Asked if they avoided wearing, carrying or displaying items that might identify them as Jews, 31 percent said they did. Asked if they ever avoided places, events or situations out of concern for their safety or comfort as Jews, 2 percent said “always,” 4 percent “frequently” and 19 percent “sometimes.”

* One in three said Jewish institutions with which they are affiliated had been the targets of either anti-Semitic graffiti, anti-Semitic attacks or anti-Semitic threats. Seventy-one percent of them said these affiliates had taken some action to combat these threats, whether hiring security guards, posting police outside or on the premises, or providing members with training on how to respond to attacks.

* Most American Jews see anti-Semitism on the far right as their biggest concern. Of those questioned, 49 percent said they saw anti-Semitism on the far right as a “very serious” threat, while 29 percent said “moderately serious.” Only 15 percent of respondents said they perceived anti-Semitism on the far left as a “very serious” threat (21 percent said “moderately serious”). Twenty-seven percent termed anti-Semitism related to Islamic extremism as a “very serious” threat (an identical percentage said “moderately serious”).

* A large majority of American Jews are not satisfied with Trump’s response to growing anti-Semitism. Of those questioned, 62 percent said they “strongly” disapproved and 11 percent said they “somewhat” disapproved of his handling of the threat. This might be expected considering that, according to the survey, only 17 percent of respondents voted for Trump.

* A little more than three-quarters (76 percent) of respondents described themselves as “very” or “somewhat” familiar with the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel. Of those who had some familiarity with the BDS movement, 35 percent described it as “mostly anti-Semitic” and 47 percent said it had “some anti-Semitic supporters.” An overwhelming 84 percent said they considered the statement “Israel has no right to exist” anti-Semitic.