ADL: American Jews Remain on Edge

ADL: American Jews Remain on Edge

Measured over the past five years or past year alone, new ADL study shows significant percentages of Jews suffered online harassment, in-person verbal attacks or physical violence.

Dave Schechter is a veteran journalist whose career includes writing and producing reports from Israel and elsewhere in the Middle East.

Allison Padilla-Goodman is vice
president of ADL’s Southern division.
Allison Padilla-Goodman is vice president of ADL’s Southern division.

On the same day that the Anti- Defamation League released a report on anti-Semitic attacks on American Jews, an Orthodox couple and their 1-yearold
son were slashed and bloodied by a knife-wielding assailant while walking in
Battery Park in lower Manhattan. Video of the March 31 incident spread quickly across social media. Though there was no indication that the alleged attacker, who was arrested hours later, knew that his victims were visiting New York City from Belgium, they were dressed in garb clearly identifying them as Orthodox

2021 survey on Jewish Americans’ experience with anti-Semitism.

“Alarmingly,” in the ADL’s words, one prominent finding in its survey was that 9 percent of respondents said that in the previous five years they had been attacked physically because they are Jewish. Indeed, the past five years have not been easy for American Jewry. The most headline-making physical attacks are referred in a shorthand, simply by their location: Charlottesville, Va. (2017), Pittsburgh (2018), Poway, Calif. (2019), Jersey City, N.J., (2019) and Monsey, N.Y. (2019). Then there are verbal attacks, the anti-Semitic comments, slurs, or threats, which 63 percent of respondents said they either had experienced personally or heard in the past five years.

To conduct the survey, the YouGov polling firm gathered responses online
from 503 Jewish American adults Jan. 7-15, then weighted the data to meet the demographics of the community. The survey’s margin of error was 4.4 percentage points. While 25 percent of respondents reported having been the target of anti-
Semitic comments, slurs or threats, 56 percent said they had heard anti-Semitic
expressions directed at others the past five years. For 2020 alone, 40 percent of the
Jewish adults reported hearing anti-Semitic comments, slurs, or threats directed at
someone else in the past year alone.

The virtual world, meanwhile, also has been a less-than-friendly environment for many American Jews. The ADL survey found that 36 percent of respondents had
experienced some form of online harassment, prompting 13 percent to avoid
identifying themselves as Jewish on social media.

However, only 29 percent reported contacting online platforms with their
concerns, a significant drop from 43 percent in the survey conducted in January
2020. “This may reflect some resignation vis a vis tech companies’ perceived lack of responsiveness to complaints about online bigotry and hate,” according to an ADL statement accompanying the survey. Jews certainly were not alone in their
internet experiences. Drawing from the full YouGov survey pool of 2,251 American adults, 27 percent of those surveyed in January 2021 reported experiencing severe online harassment, compared with 28 percent a year earlier.

Reviewing its results, the ADL reported that 59 percent of the Jewish Americans
feel less safe in the United States now than a decade ago. Just shy of half, 49 percent, now fear a violent attack at a synagogue, that figure down from 54 percent a year earlier. The ADL also reported that the personal costs of anti-Semitic harassment included 33 percent of respondents reporting difficulty sleeping and 16 percent who said their financial lives had been affected. Allison Padilla-Goodman, vice president of ADL’s Southern division, said in a statement to the AJT, “The results of ADL’s latest survey on Jewish American experiences with antisemitism is another reminder of the reality we are living in: rates of anti-Semitic incidents are at alarmingly high rates, and Jews in our country are feeling it and living that reality. With well over half of Jewish Americans either experiencing or directly witnessing some form of anti-Semitic incident in the last five years, we have to address the impact that has on the community and our path forward in addressing hate.”

On March 24, the ADL released other results from YouGov’s full survey pool of
2,251 American adults. Notably, given recent violence in Atlanta and elsewhere, the ADL reported that Asian-Americans experienced the largest increase in online hate and harassment, compared with other groups, as 17 percent reported being the victims of sexual harassment, stalking, physical threats, and other forms of abuse, compared with 11 percent a year earlier. Half of the Asian American respondents who were harassed reported being targeted because of their race or ethnicity.

Overall, for the third consecutive year, LGBTQ+ respondents reported a rate of overall harassment of 64 percent, higher than any other demographic measured. In the same survey, 36 percent of Muslim respondents reported severe online harassment.

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