‘Deeply Disturbing’: Anti-Semitic Incidents in U.S. Hit Record High in 2019, ADL Report Says

Anti-Defamation League logged 2,107 anti-Semitic incidents in the United States last year – the most since it started keeping such records in 1979

Danielle Ziri
Danielle Ziri
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Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, right, is hugged as he leaves a news conference at the Chabad of Poway synagogue in California, a day after a shooting there that killed one worshipper, April 28, 2020.
Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, right, is hugged as he leaves a news conference at the Chabad of Poway synagogue in California, a day after a shooting there that killed one worshipper, April 28, 2020.Credit: Denis Poroy / AP
Danielle Ziri
Danielle Ziri

Violent anti-Semitism in the United States is the worst it has been in over 40 years, the Anti-Defamation League said on Tuesday when releasing its annual audit of anti-Semitic incidents in the country.

There were an average of six anti-Semitic incidents every day in the United States in 2019, with physical assaults against Jews up more than 50 percent on the previous year.

The ADL logged 2,107 anti-Semitic incidents throughout the country in 2019 – the highest number since the organization began recording such occurrences, in 1979. The total number of cases increased by 12 percent from 2018.

Of the 2019 incidents, the largest increase was seen in physical assaults on members of the U.S. Jewish community: 56 percent, which the Jewish civil rights group called “disturbing.”

The 61 anti-Semitic assaults involved 95 victims and resulted in the death of four Jews following three major attacks: the shooting attack at the Chabad of Poway synagogue in California, in April 2019; the kosher supermarket shooting in Jersey City, in December; and the Hanukkah stabbing incident in Monsey, New York, later that same month. By contrast, there were 39 such assaults in 2018.

During a briefing on the data Tuesday morning, ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said that “the past few years have been the most challenging in recent memory” when it comes to anti-Semitic incidents.

“From Pittsburgh to Poway, Jersey City to Monsey, violent anti-Semitism has become all too commonplace,” he said.

“This was a year of unprecedented anti-Semitic activity, a time when many Jewish communities across the country had direct encounters with hate,” Greenblatt said in the press release that accompanied the audit. “This contributed to a rising climate of anxiety and fear in our communities.”

According to the organization's yearly audit, cases of anti-Semitic vandalism – including swastika drawings and other anti-Semitic graffiti – rose by 19 percent over 2018 (totalling 919 incidents last year, including 746 drawings of swastikas). Anti-Semitic harassment – defined as a situation in which a Jewish person or group of people “feel harassed by the perceived anti-Semitic words, spoken or written, or actions of another person or group” – was also up, by 6 percent (1,127 in 2019, as against 1,066 in 2018).

New York was the state hardest hit by anti-Semitism, with 430 incidents. More than half of the assaults nationwide took place in the five boroughs of New York City, including five in Manhattan and 25 in Brooklyn. Home to a large Orthodox Jewish population, the latter has been the epicenter of such attacks in the city in recent years.

Supporters of the National Socialist Movement, a white nationalist political group, give Nazi salutes while taking part in a swastika burning at an undisclosed location in Georgia, United States.Credit: GO NAKAMURA/REUTERS

Last December, the ADL documented eight assaults in Brooklyn within an eight-day span, coinciding with the week of Hanukkah. These were mainly perpetrated against "visibly" Jewish individuals in the neighborhoods of Williamsburg and Crown Heights. Victims in these incidents were either verbally abused, had objects thrown at them or were physically hit or punched.

New Jersey, California, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania followed New York among the top five states that saw the most anti-Semitic incidents last year.

These events occurred primarily in public areas such as streets and parks (655 incidents); at non-Jewish K-12 schools (411); and at private businesses (257).

Some 239 incidents also took place in homes and private residences, while 234 were recorded at Jewish institutions including synagogues, Jewish community centers or Jewish schools. Colleges and universities accounted for 186 such occurrences.

In addition, the ADL stressed that 13 percent of all anti-Semitic incidents in the United States in 2019 could be attributed to known extremist groups or individuals inspired by extremist ideology, among them the attack on the Chabad synagogue in Poway, which was committed by a self-professed white supremacist.

However, most of the incidents linked to extremists manifested in the form of anti-Semitic flyers, banners, stickers or written messages. According to the ADL, the main perpetrators were typically members of white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups – such as Daily Stormer Book Clubs, the New Jersey European Heritage Association and the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan – along with followers of the Black Hebrew Israelites, who were implicated in the deadly attacks in Jersey City and Monsey.

Anti-Israel elements

The data also reveal that Israel and Zionism were referenced in 171 of the incidents that were recorded. “Of those, 68 took the form of white supremacist groups’ propaganda efforts, which attempt to foment anti-Israel and anti-Semitic beliefs,” the report stated.

A couple embrace near a growing memorial across the street from the Chabad of Poway synagogue in Poway, Calif., April 29, 2019.Credit: Gregory Bull / AP

“Most of the remaining incidents were expressions of anti-Israel animus that incorporated anti-Semitic imagery or harassment and demonization of Jewish students for their real or assumed connection to Israel," it added.

“It’s clear we must remain vigilant in working to counter the threat of violent anti-Semitism and denounce it in all forms, wherever the source and regardless of the political affiliation of its proponents,” Greenblatt said. “We need to ensure that synagogues and community centers have the right security measures in place to prevent the next potential attack.”

Greenblatt added that the ADL plans to work with members of Congress and other elected officials this year to “ensure that funding is in place, and that all states mandate Holocaust education, which can serve as an effective deterrent for future acts of hate.”

The annual audit aims to offer “a snapshot of one of the ways American Jews encounter anti-Semitism,” according to the ADL. But it does not include instances of online anti-Semitism, which has been a major concern for that group and others in the past few years with the rise of social media.

Viral hatred

Earlier this month, the ADL announced that it had also recorded a “significant increase” in anti-Semitic social media posts since the coronavirus crisis began in March, particularly targeting Orthodox communities in New York and New Jersey.

The organization found that coronavirus-related, anti-Semitic content often puts generalized blame on the Orthodox community, or suggests that its members be forcibly separated from the rest of society or be refused medical treatment, and be punished by law enforcement authorities.

Members of the Jewish community walking past the Jersey City kosher supermarket in which three people were murdered, December 2019. Credit: Seth Wenig / AP

The ADL expressed particular concern that the hate-filled rhetoric has appeared on “mainstream community Facebook groups that purport to discuss public policy issues, but instead quickly morph into forums that enable Jew-hatred, both veiled and overt.” Along with the latest figures, the organization has also submitted a number of policy recommendations to members of Congress and other government leaders.

It has suggested, for example, that public officials and civic leaders nationwide, “from the president, to governors, attorneys general, mayors, other civic leaders and law enforcement authorities, should use their bully pulpits to speak out against anti-Semitism and all forms of hate and extremism.”

The ADL also called on Congress to increase funding for nonprofit security grants for Jewish institutions, to support legislation to fight hate and to help provide law enforcement officials with “the tools and training they need to prevent and effectively respond to hate crimes.”

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