Antisemitic Incidents in US Remained at ‘Disturbingly High Level’ in 2020, Latest ADL Audit Reveals
Antisemitic incidents in the United States remained at a historic high in 2020, with more than 2,000 incidents reported across the country, according to the latest audit published by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) on Tuesday.
The audit disclosed that a total of 2,024 incidents of assault, harassment and vandalism were reported to the ADL in 2020. It noted: “While antisemitic incidents declined by 4 percent after hitting an all-time high in 2019, last year was still the third-highest year for incidents against American Jews since ADL started tracking such data in 1979.”
The ADL’s chief executive emphasized that the figures remained an acute source of concern, despite the minor dip recorded in the last year.
“While any decline in the data is encouraging, we still experienced a year in which antisemitic acts remained at a disturbingly high level despite lockdowns and other significant changes in our daily lives and interactions with others,” Jonathan Greenblatt — ADL CEO and National Director — said in a statement. “We can’t let our guard down. As communities begin to open up and people spend more time in person with others, we must remain vigilant.”
As was also observed in several other countries during the last year, the lockdowns imposed by the spreading of COVID-19 led to a soaring of online antisemitic incidents in the US, often fueled by antisemitic conspiracy theories about the pandemic. A new phenomenon of extremists hacking into private videoconferences, or “zoombombing,” also surfaced. The ADL audit recorded 196 incidents of antisemitic videoconferencing attacks. Of those incidents, 114 targeted Jewish institutions such as schools and synagogues.
Among the shocking examples cited in the ADL report was the intruder who hacked into a synagogue’s online Passover seder. Displaying a swastika tattoo on his chest, the intruder sent the message “HEIL HITLER YOU FILTHY K_KES. THE BLOOD OF CHRIST IS ON YOUR HANDS. YOU ARE CURSED FOR HIS MURDER” to the participants. In another “zoombombing” incident, a virtual Torah study class was disrupted by an unknown participant who drew swastikas and vulgar images on the screen, and wrote “Kill Jews” multiple times in the chat function.
Violent assaults against US Jews also remained worryingly high in 2020, despite a decline brought on by the lack of social contact during the lockdowns. According to the ADL audit, 41 individuals were targeted in 2020, down from 95 the previous year.
Nearly half of the assaults nationwide took place in the five boroughs of New York City, including 11 that targeted members of the Orthodox community in Brooklyn as well as one in Manhattan. Four assaults occurred in California; three took place in the greater Los Angeles metropolitan area, and one assault occurred in San Diego. The remaining assaults were spread across the country, with no other city recording more than one.
Of the total incidents reported in 2020, 1,242 incidents were defined as harassment — cases where one or more Jewish people reported having been harassed by the “perceived antisemitic words, spoken or written, or actions of another person or group.” Such acts increased 10 percent from 1,127 in 2019, the report noted.
A total of 751 incidents of antisemitic vandalism were reported during 2020, with more than 500 of these featuring the Nazi swastika. Again, this was a small decline from the 919 incidents reported in the year prior to the pandemic.
The ADL report additionally highlighted the increase in antisemitic offenses perpetrated by known extremist groups or individuals inspired by extremist ideology. These were responsible for 331 incidents in 2020, up from 270 incidents in 2019. The list included groups like the New Jersey European Heritage Association (NJEHA), whose messages in 2020 asserted that “Antifa is a Jewish communist militia,” “Black Crimes Matter” and “America is under occupation,” with the text overlaying a Star of David; and the Folks Front — a neo-Nazi group whose propaganda flyers featured a man breaking his chained hands, locked together by a Star of David, with the accompanying words, “Break debt slavery.”
Virulent attacks on Zionism or the State of Israel were visible in 178 antisemitic incidents in 2020, compared to 175 such incidents in 2019. According to the ADL, 38 of these “took the form of white supremacist groups’ propaganda efforts, which attempt to foment anti-Israel and antisemitic beliefs. Most of the remaining incidents were expressions of anti-Israel animus that incorporated antisemitic imagery or harassment and demonization of Jewish students for their connection — real or assumed — to Israel.”
A total of 47 states reported antisemitic incidents, with just five of them — New York (336), New Jersey (295), California (289), Florida (127) and Pennsylvania (101) — accounting for 57 percent of the total incidents.
The ADL audit confirms that the US has been vulnerable to similar antisemitic trends impacting Jewish communities in Europe, with no major let-up in antisemitic acts in 2020 despite the restrictions introduced by social distancing. The latest findings come one month after an ADL poll discovered that 63 percent of American Jews had either experienced or heard antisemitic comments, slurs or threats targeting others over the last five years.