‘Anti-Jewish hate is no longer operating on the fringes’

4 in 10 American Jews feel less safe amid rising tide of antisemitism, per new report 

By: - February 25, 2023 4:47 am

People attend a prayer and candlelight vigil at Rancho Bernardo Community Presbyterian Church on April 27, 2019 in Poway, California. A gunman opened fire at the Congregation Chabad synagogue on the last day of Passover leaving one person dead and three others injured. The suspect is in custody.| David McNew/Getty Images

More than four in ten American Jews feel less safe than they did a year ago, with nearly that same number altering their behavior out of fear of antisemitism.

That’s according to the American Jewish Committee’s State of Antisemitism in America Report for 2022, which utilizes a set of surveys to assess and compare the perception of antisemitism of both the Jewish and general populations in the United States.

The survey, released on Feb. 13, found that 41% of American Jews said their status in the United States is less secure than it was in 2021 when 31% gave that same answer. 

“Anti-Jewish hate is no longer operating on the fringes; it has moved to the center of American society, politics, entertainment and sports,” said Ted Deutch, CEO of the American Jewish Committee. “Its impact on the Jewish community is terrifying.”

Additionally, 38% of Jewish respondents reported that they have altered their behavior at least once in the past year due to fears of antisemitism, including avoiding posting online content and wearing or displaying items that would enable others to identify them as Jewish. In fact, about 16% said they even avoided “certain places, events or situations due to concerns about their safety or comfort as Jews.”

Rabbi Jeffrey Falick

As surprising as those statistics may be to some, they aren’t unexpected for leaders and others in Michigan’s Jewish community, like Rabbi Jeffrey Falick, who leads the Congregation for Humanistic Judaism of Metro Detroit in Farmington Hills.

“It’s rolled in waves,” Falick said of antisemitism. “There’s never been a time that Jews have been completely embraced. There have been times where things have quieted, and I would say probably we look back on the ‘50s, ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s as a time where Jews were a little bit more embraced. Some of it had to do with a little bit of a love affair with Israel. But I don’t really see this as a new phenomenon.”

However, Falick says that doesn’t in any way diminish the threat that American Jews, including his congregants, are facing.

“I think people are upset,” he said. “We had that terrible incident at Temple Beth El [in Bloomfield Hills]. We’ve had other incidents like that all over the country. We’ve also witnessed the worst massacre of Jews in American history in Pittsburgh. And we’ve also seen multiple attacks on synagogues and the American Jewish community. And we are not any different there. We may be humanist, but we’re still humans in the sense that we’re Jewish humans who are scared of what’s going on.”

The surveys, which were conducted both by phone and online by the independent research firm SSRS, interviewed 1,507 American Jews, ages 18 or older, and 1,004 responders from the general population. The margin of error was about 3.5%.

While almost nine in 10 of both American Jews (89%) and the general public in the U.S. (91%) agree antisemitism affects American society as a whole, there is some divergence when it comes to its seriousness. Although 48% of Jews believe antisemitism is taken less seriously than other forms of hate and bigotry, that same feeling is by expressed by just 34% of the general population. 

Meanwhile, the survey also shows that antisemitic content is increasingly making its way into people’s lives through the internet and social media.

Over the past 12 months, 69% of U.S. Jews say they experienced antisemitism online, either as a direct target or by coming across antisemitic content, with younger Jews even more so. 85% of those 18 to 29 years old said they’d had such encounters compared with 64% of those aged 30 or older.

And of those who experienced antisemitism online, 26% of younger Jews say it made them feel physically threatened, while just 14% of those aged 30 and up felt that way.

American Jewish Committee’s State of Antisemitism in America Report for 2022

In addition, among the 36% of U.S. general population adults who have personally witnessed one or more antisemitic incidents in the past year, 82% saw those incidents online or on social media, while 19% saw them on the street, 14% saw them in a store and 10% saw them on public transit.

For Falick, the statistics are an important tool to help quantify something that often resists a clear definition.

“There really is something unique about hatred of the Jews that it doesn’t find one set of stereotypes and lock onto them as we see with a lot of groups,” he said. “It kind of embraces everything you might personally hate. You could put it on a Jew if you’re left-wing or if you’re right-wing. There’s always a stereotype that you can associate with the Jews.”

Carolyn Normandin, the director of the Michigan Anti-Defamation League (ADL), said the report was “very troubling.”

“These surveys need to be looked at carefully for what they say,” she said. “The AJC survey is talking about almost half of Jews [feeling] less secure about their status in the United States. And that goes very, very close to what we found at ADL, which is 20% of Americans believing more than six of the anti-Semitic tropes. I mean, that’s a large number. That’s a tremendously troublesome figure.”

Normandin was referring to a report released in January in which the ADL, in cooperation with the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago (NORC) and the One8 Foundation, conducted its own study to measure antisemitism in America.

It found that more than three-quarters of Americans, 85%, believe at least one anti-Jewish trope, as opposed to 61% found in 2019. The 20% of Americans who believe six or more tropes is nearly double the 11% that ADL found in 2019 and is the highest level measured in decades.

These tropes include:

  • Jews stick together more than other Americans
  • Jews always like to be at the head of things
  • Jews are more loyal to Israel than to America
  • Jews have too much power in the business world
  • Jews have too much control and influence on Wall Street
  • Jews have too much power in the United States today 

Normandin says antisemitism is often built on conspiracy theories. 

“All of the tropes are conspiratorial,” she said, pointing to the recent severing of ties by Adidas with rapper Ye, formerly known as Kanye West, after he appeared with right-wing radio host Alex Jones on his Infowars show and praised Adolf Hitler amidst an antisemitic diatribe.

“There was a backlash against Jewish people when Adidas dropped him as a spokesperson, and people said, ‘Oh, the Jews have done it again. They’ve silenced Kanye West,’ said Normandin. “Nobody silenced him. There were consequences for his actions. Just like anybody who goes against their employer or goes against the brand of their employer or gets crosswise with the employer’s sense of values can face consequences.”

Normandin said that Jewish people are often targets of conspiracies that can involve other marginalized groups.

“A lot of times something that starts with another group of people ends with the Jews,” she said. “So what we saw during COVID-19 was this backlash against Asian Americans, which is ridiculous, but what we saw quickly was all of a sudden, ‘The pandemic, it’s the Jews’ fault. The Jews introduced COVID because the Jews have the antidote or have the vaccine, and Israel’s gonna make money on it.’

Carolyn Normandin

“That in of itself is one of the more insidious problems with antisemitism. People who hold antisemitic points of view also hold anti-Asian points of view or anti-gay points of view or anti-Black points of view. So a lot of times, antisemitism is a precursor for other types of hatred,” said Normandin.

State Rep. Noah Arbit (D-West Bloomfield), the founder of the Michigan Democratic Jewish Caucus, said the Jewish community knows that these rising threats aren’t occurring in a vacuum. 

“You know, we have rising political violence, threats against public officials, we’ve even received threats to our lives as Jewish officials since we’ve been sworn in,” he said, adding that it was just another example of the growing trend. “It’s very disturbing. It’s very exhausting.”

Arbit was referring to the arrest of an individual accused of threatening the lives of unspecified Jewish elected officials in Michigan. His office released a statement early Wednesday expressing his “sincere gratitude” to the FBI teams in Dallas and Detroit for their “swift response” to the incident.

“This incident is disturbing because it is consistent with the untempered rise in antisemitism, white nationalism, and hate crimes targeting Jews across the country, as well as increased political violence and threats against public officials — particularly right here in Michigan,” he said.

Arbit told the Advance that the incident would not deter their work to find solutions to try and stem the tide of hate.

“I was very heartened to see in the governor’s [Gretchen Whitmer] executive budget recommendation, for the first time I believe, certainly the first time since she’s been governor, a recommendation that the Michigan Alliance Against Hate Crimes have a special line item in the budget.”

The Alliance is a statewide coalition of law enforcement agencies, civil rights organizations, community-based groups, educators, and anti-violence advocates.

American Jewish Committee’s State of Antisemitism in America Report for 2022

Arbit says the $574,000 proposed for the group within the Michigan Department of Civil Rights (MDCR) budget would be the first time the state will “fully fund the MDCR and make sure that department is actually fully staffed, fully functional and can protect people.”

Arbit says he’s also moving forward on his plan, reported on by the Advance in December, to update the state’s ethnic intimidation statute, which he believes is vague and insufficient. He said there would be a rollout in March.

“That’s the work that I’m trying to do, that I promised my constituents that I would do,” Arbit said. “And, you know, I was criticized for that by some politicians who were elected previously by saying that wasn’t a kitchen-table issue. But I think issues like this very much are kitchen table issues because everyone has the right to navigate through life being safe and well in their communities.”

Arbit also said he’s working on codifying the definition of antisemitism into the law in terms of civil statutes.

“That’s the best place to do it, “ Arbit said, “Basically, to make sure that state agencies and institutions have sort of a guideline for how to look at what is hate against Jewish people — what does that look like?”


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Jon King
Jon King

Jon King has been a journalist for more than 35 years. He is the Past President of the Michigan Associated Press Media Editors Association and has been recognized for excellence numerous times, most recently in 2021 with the Best Investigative Story by the Michigan Association of Broadcasters. He is also an adjunct faculty member at Cleary University. Jon and his family live in Howell, where he also serves on the Board of Directors for the Livingston Diversity Council.