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October 26, 2021 2:56 pm
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Survey: Four in 10 US Jews Have Had to Conceal Identity

avatar by Faygie Holt / JNS.org

Ohel Menachem Riverdale Jewish Youth Library Lubavitch, where glass windows were smashed in New York on April 25, 2021. Photo by Lev Radin/Sipa USA

JNS.org – For the third year in a row, the American Jewish Committee has released a survey about antisemitism in the United States and found large discrepancies in results between Jewish and non-Jewish respondents.

According to the survey, 60 percent of non-Jews say antisemitism is a very serious problem or somewhat of a problem in the United States today. By contrast, 90 percent of Jewish respondents said antisemitism is a very serious problem or somewhat of a problem.

Some 17 percent of Jews say they were the target of an antisemitic remark in person over the last 12 months. Of those who were targeted, 23 percent were in the West, 29 percent in the South, 12 percent in the Midwest and 14 percent in the Northeast, according to Holly Huffnagle, AJC’s US director for combating antisemitism.

Antisemitic remarks were also found online with 12 percent of Jewish respondents reporting that they were the target of online remarks. (The report did not ask about seeing antisemitism online in general, but was specific to individual targeting.)

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While the majority of Jews haven’t changed their habits when it comes to going out as wearing or displaying items that would peg them as Jews out of fear of antisemitism, a significant number, 22 percent, said they had, and a full 17 percent said they avoided going to certain places for the same reason.

That, said the American Jewish Committee, is cause for concern.

“That one in four American Jews has been the target of antisemitism over the past year alone, and that four out of 10 have taken steps to conceal their Jewishness or curtail their activities as a result should alarm Americans,” AJC CEO David Harris said in a statement. “Now is the time for American society to stand up and say ‘Enough is enough.’ ”

One of the major changes this year was reworking many of the questions so they reflect a very current time frame. The past studies have asked participants to look back over five years, this time, said Huffnagle, but this time people were asked to consider events over the “past 12 months.”

That, she said, gives a more immediate look and “speaks to what American Jews are feeling now.”

One of the more surprising findings was a 10 percent jump in the number of Jews who perceive the extreme political left as a challenge from previous surveys, with 38 percent saying it is a very serious or moderately serious threat. Meanwhile, when asked about the extreme political right, 73 percent of Jews said it was a very serious or moderately serious threat.

Campus incidents, Holocaust knowledge, dual loyalty

While much has been written in recent years about the growing threat facing college students on campuses nationwide, the survey found that only 20 percent of Jews said they or someone they knew has “experienced antisemitism in a college setting.”

That number needs to be put in context, noted Huffnagle; the results are based on a national representative sample size that is quite small with 1,400 Jews participating, many of whom may have no connection to college campuses or students. When examining the 18- to 29-year-old group, she explained, the response rises with 30 percent saying they or someone they knew experienced antisemitism on campus.

Among the reports other findings:

  • Most American Jews, more than 70 percent, were either “a lot or somewhat” aware of the numerous attacks against Jews after Israel’s 11-day conflict with Hamas in the Gaza Strip in May. However, that number dropped to less than 50 percent of the general US population.
  • When asked if antisemitism has increased or decreased in the last five years, 82 percent of Jews said it increased a lot or somewhat while only 3 percent said it decreased (the remaining felt levels were the same.) Among the US population overall, 44 percent said it increased either a somewhat or a lot while 15 percent said it decreased, and 22 percent said it remained the same and 19 percent said they weren’t sure.
  • Some 41 percent of general respondents have seen antisemitic incidents over the last 12 months that include negative remarks or online content about Jewish people or physical attacks on Jewish people or their religious facilities.
  • While 64 percent of general respondents say they know someone who is Jewish, another 36 percent say they personally don’t know any Jews.
  • Jews and the general population overwhelmingly believe that the statement “The Holocaust has been exaggerated” is antisemitic, and both groups also believe that saying “Israel has no right to exist” is antisemitic. However, when asked if the statement “American Jews are loyal to Israel and disloyal to America” is antisemitic, 27 percent of the general population surveyed and 14 percent of Jewish respondents said it is not.

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