U.S. Jews Feeling Much Less Safe in Their Country, ADL Survey Shows

Over 1 in 4 respondents say they have modified their behavior out of fear of attacks, nearly 2 out of 3 feel less safe than a decade ago

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Members of the Orthodox Jewish community on April 8, 2020 in Brooklyn, New York.
Members of the Orthodox Jewish community on April 8, 2020 in Brooklyn, New York.Credit: AFP

Nearly two out of three American Jews (63 percent) report feeling less safe today than a decade ago, according to a survey commissioned by the Anti-Defamation League and published on Tuesday. 

Increasingly anxious about anti-Semitic attacks, a significant share of the survey participants (27 percent) said they had begun modifying their behavior to prevent being targeted. The most common strategy, adopted by 12 percent of the respondents, was avoiding markers of Jewish identification. This included not using their last names, covering or not wearing Jewish stars, and not identifying as Jewish on social media sites. Another 9 percent said they avoided wearing religious clothing and accessories.  

Less common strategies included avoiding non-Jewish areas, businesses or institutions (5 percent), not displaying mezuzahs on doorposts (5 percent), taking steps toward emigration (4 percent), and avoiding Jewish institutions (3 percent). 

Responding to the findings, Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO and national director of the ADL, said: “It is a sad state of affairs that in the face of widespread anxiety about anti-Semitic attacks, some Jewish Americans are modifying their routines and avoiding public displays of Judaism to minimize the risk of being targeted.”

The survey was conducted in the last two weeks of January, before the coronavirus outbreak in the United States. Its publication coincides with Holocaust Memorial Day, being marked in Israel today. The findings were based on responses from a representative sample of 538 Jewish Americans aged 18 and over. 

“We recognize the reality on the ground has changed dramatically for Jewish communities, as it has for all communities, in recent months,” said Greenblatt. “This survey offers a snapshot of a window in time prior to the coronavirus outbreak that has so altered our daily lives.”

He added that the organization was assessing new trends in anti-Semitism in wake of the pandemic and would have additional data to share in the near future.

Over half of those questioned (54 percent) said they had either experienced or witnessed some form of anti-Semitism in the past five years. Just under half (49 percent) said they had heard anti-Semitic comments, slurs or threats targeting others, while one in five (21 percent) said they had personally been targeted by anti-Semitic comments, slurs or threats. A similar percentage said they were affiliated with a Jewish institution that had been vandalized, damaged or defaced because of anti-Semitism. One in seven (14 percent) knew someone who had been physically attacked because he or she was Jewish, while 5 percent had been physically attacked or had their home, car or property damaged because of their religious identity.

Roughly half the respondents said they were worried about other Jews being physically or verbally assaulted on the street or in public places, while about a third said there worried about themselves being targeted in such attacks.

The survey was conducted by YouGov, a British market research and data analytics firm, on behalf of the ADL.

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