Society

The U.S. witnessed the highest number of antisemitic incidents in 2021 since the Anti-Defamation League started its reporting in 1979

The annual tally of antisemitic incidents in the United States has never been higher in 2021 since the Anti-Defamation League started reporting on it in 1979.

March against antisemitism in New York in January 2020
March against antisemitism in New York in January 2020 | © Michael Appleton, Mayoral Photography Office

The Anti-Defamation League’s annual Audit of Antisemitic Incidents released on April 26 reports 2,717 incidents in the United States in 2021. It is the highest number of incidents since A.D.L., a U.S.-based anti-hate organization, started reporting them in 1979. Data include assault, harassment, and vandalism of antisemitic nature reported by victims, law enforcement and community leaders and was evaluated by A.D.L. staff.

In May 2021, A.D.L. witnessed a 148 percent increase of incidents compared to May 2020. The surge coincided with a spike of tensions between Israel and Hamas. There were 297 incidents reported during this month across the United States. Jewish individuals were physically targeted and violently beaten in some incidents that occurred after May 10 when the conflict between Hamas and Israel escalated.

Along with assault, there were also more cases of harassment and vandalism. There were 1,776 incidents of harassment and 853 acts of vandalism, according to A.D.L. Harassment increased by 43 percent and vandalism by 14 percent compared to 2020.

States including New York, New Jersey, California, Florida, Michigan, and Texas account for 58 percent of total incidents, mainly because a large portion of the Jewish community lives in these regions. According to the New York City Police Department, complaints involving hate crimes incidents by bias motivation in the city increased 71 percent in 2021 with 198 complaints compared to 2020 and 116 complaints.

The majority of the attacks were carried out by local extremist groups: White supremacists and local hate groups account for 52 percent of total incidents.

But the “May conflict represented only one of several spikes” as a surge of violence was also observed during November and December when there was no fighting going on in Israel.

When it comes to antisemitic activity in America, you cannot point to any single ideology or belief system, and in many cases, we simply don’t know the motivation,” said Jonathan A. Greenblatt, A.D.L. chief executive and national director. “But we do know that Jews are experiencing more antisemitic incidents than we have in this country in at least 40 years, and that’s a deeply troubling indicator of larger societal fissures.”

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