A new survey conducted by the American Jewish Committee (AJC) found that while 88% of American Jews believe anti-Semitism in the US today is a serious issue, only 63% of the general population agree.
Looking back over the past five years, 82% of Jewish respondents say anti-Semitism has increased during that period, compared to only 43% of adults from the general population who believe so. Some 14% of Jews and 39% of adults from the general population say it has stayed the same.
The findings of the poll were presented to Knesset’s’ Committee for Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs on Tuesday.
The AJC study, released on the eve of the second anniversary of the Tree of Life synagogue massacre in Pittsburgh in which 11 Jewish worshippers were killed, is based on parallel surveys of American Jews and the general public.
The number of American Jews who say they have avoided certain places or events out of concern for their safety as Jews increased to 31%, from 25% in the 2019 AJC survey.
About 55% of Orthodox, 43% of Conservative, 33% of Reform, 32% of Reconstructionist, and 24% of Secular Jews answered yes in the 2020 survey about them taking preventative measures against anti-Semitism.
About a quarter of American Jews say they have avoided publicly wearing, carrying, or displaying items that might identify them as Jews since the Tree of Life shooting in October 2018.
More than one in three American Jews reported being the target of an anti-Semitic incident, such as a physical attack or an anti-Semitic remark online or in person, by mail, or by phone, in the past five years.
Interestingly, as in 2019, three-fourths of the Jewish respondents who were targeted did not report the incident.
More than 43% of Jewish young people between the ages of 18 and 29 say they have either personally experienced anti-Semitism on a college campus or know someone who has.
While 53% of US adults say they are familiar with the term anti-Semitism and know what it means, nearly half of Americans do not, with 21% saying they have never heard the word and 25% saying that while they have heard it, they are unsure what it means
Committee Chairman Member of Knesset David Bitan mentioned the victims of the anti-Semitic attacks in Pittsburg, Monsey, San Diego and Jersey City, and the participants stood for a moment of silence in their honor.
“The murder in Pittsburgh was the most severe anti-Semitic attack in US history,” Bitan noted. “Every Jew’s nightmare of being attacked in a synagogue on Shabbat morning while praying was realized.”
“When hate-filled people with very easy access to a weapon invade a synagogue in which tallit-donning Jews are praying – these are horrific incidents that many did not believe could ever occur in the United States of our time,” he added, noting that at the end of the 18th century, the US became the first country in the world to grant full equal rights to Jews.
While anti-Semitism in it is not new, “in the past it was always limited to individuals and small groups in American society, while most of American society welcomed the Jews with open arms, in a society that sanctified the values of equality” he asserted.
However, “in the corona age, anti-Semitism has increased significantly. The committee has acted to eradicate anti-Semitism on the social networks, but we will continue working so that the Jewish communities all across the United States will be able to exist safely and lead a routine communal life,” he declared.
Jewish Agency Chairman Isaac Herzog said that “from here, the Land of Israel, we express deep solidarity and deep pain for our sisters and brothers, and promise to intensify the relations with our brothers there.”
Jonathan Greenblatt CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, warned that anti-Semitism is moving from the fringes towards the center of the American consciousness, and is present in public life there.
Avital Leibovich, Director of the AJC in Israel, spoke about a congressional legislative initiative that will assist in the fight against anti-Semitism, as well as activity that is carried out within American communities, such as Hispanic communities, in the fight to curb anti-Semitism.
She stressed the need for educational activity in the US, where 25% of the population is unfamiliar with the Holocaust.