Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents: Year in Review 2018

2018 Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents

 

Throughout each year, ADL’s (Anti-Defamation League) Center on Extremism tracks incidents of anti-Semitic harassment, vandalism and assault in the United States. Since 1979, we have published this information in an annual Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents.

  • In 2018 ADL recorded 1,879 anti-Semitic incidents in the United States. 
  • 2018 included the deadliest attack on Jews in the history of the U.S.: The massacre of 11 Jewish worshippers, and an additional two more injured, at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh by a white supremacist in October. The Pittsburgh attack was one of 39 reported physical assaults on Jewish individuals in 2018, a 105% increase over 2017. A total of 59 individuals were victims of assault, not including the police officers injured at the Tree of Life Synagogue.
  • Of the 1,879 incidents in 2018, 1,066 were cases of harassment, an increase of 5% from 2017; and 774 were cases of vandalism, a decrease of 19% from 952 in 2017.
  • In 2018, ADL recorded 249 anti-Semitic incidents attributed to known extremist groups or individuals inspired by extremist ideology. This represents 13% of the total number of incidents and is the highest level of anti-Semitic incidents with known connections to extremist individuals or groups since 2004. These incidents were the result of an anti-Semitic fliering campaign and of a series of robocalls perpetrated by a neo-Nazi. Nearly half of the incidents of harassment targeting Jewish institutions were the work of known white supremacists or extremists.
  • K-12 schools, as well as colleges and universities, continue to be the scenes of significant numbers of anti-Semitic incidents. ADL recorded 344 incidents at K-12 non-Jewish schools in 2018 (down from 457 in 2017), and 201 incidents at colleges and universities (down from 204 in 2017).
  • In 2018 there were 265 reported incidents at Jewish institutions such as synagogues, Jewish community centers and Jewish schools, a decrease of 23% from the previous year, but still markedly higher than the 170 incidents reported in 2016.
  • ADL has tracked anti-Semitic incidents for the past four decades and in 2018 recorded the third-highest number of incidents. The total of 2018 incidents decreased by 5% from the 1,986 incidents ADL recorded in 2017. The 2018 total is 48% higher than the number of incidents in 2016 and 99% higher than in 2015.
  • ADL has included a comprehensive set of policy recommendations for civil society, governmental and technology sector leaders to help them in the fight against the scourge of anti-Semitism, at the end of the report. These include recommendations aimed at assessing and combating the rise of online anti-Semitism, which is not tracked in this report other than with regard to specific reported instances of direct targeting, but which ADL has been analyzing in other reports.
  • The complete dataset of anti-Semitic incidents for 2016-2018 is available on ADL’s H.E.A.T. Map, an interactive online tool that allows users to geographically chart anti-Semitic incidents and extremist activity nationally and regionally. Note that some details have been removed from the incident listings to ensure the privacy of victims.

Since 1979 ADL has published an annual Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents — a tally and analysis of incidents of anti-Semitic harassment, vandalism and assault in the United States which we have become aware of over the course of each year. These incidents include criminal and non-criminal expressions of anti-Semitism. The vast majority of the incidents in the Audit were reported to us by constituents; they are supplemented by media reports, information shared with us by law enforcement agencies and reports of extremist activity by ADL experts working in the Center on Extremism (COE).

The Audit offers insight into one of the ways that American Jews encounter anti-Semitism, but a full understanding of anti-Semitism in the US requires other forms of analysis as well, including but not limited to public opinion polling, assessments of online anti-Semitism and examinations of extremist activity, all of which ADL offers in other reports and on its website. Although the Audit includes instances where anti-Israel activism adopts overt anti-Semitic expressions, it does not include much of the non-anti-Semitic anti-Israel rhetoric and organizing which nevertheless makes many American Jews feel uncomfortable and insecure.

Accounting for the role of online anti-Semitism is particularly challenging. The Audit includes cases where individuals or groups reported being targeted with anti-Semitic content in direct messages or on social media, but it only scratches the surface of the broader anti-Semitic online ecosystem, which ranges from hardcore white supremacist forums and jihadi messaging apps; to the conspiratorial fever-swamps of 8chan, 4chan, Gab and other niche social media platforms; to the millions of anti-Semitic tweets, podcasts, posts and videos that one may find on mainstream websites, social media and gaming networks. ADL continues to analyze the diverse ways in which anti-Semitism thrives, recruits adherents online and can incite violence. ADL works with government and civil society organizations, including academic institutions and tech industry leaders to help fight hateful content while preserving freedom of speech.

The Audit will examine the trends that can be discerned by careful examination of the recorded incidents. In some cases, it will be possible to identify causes for increases and decreases in specific incident types, but because many of the perpetrators of incidents are never identified it is difficult to establish causal explanations for much of what the numbers reveal. The report will conclude with an explanation of our methodology and a set of policy recommendations for civil society, governmental and technology sector leaders to help them in the fight against the scourge of anti-Semitism.

In 2018 ADL identified 1,879 reported anti-Semitic incidents throughout the United States. The states with the highest numbers of incidents were California: 341, New York: 340, New Jersey: 200 and Massachusetts: 144. Combined, these states account for more than half (55%) of the total number of incidents. 

 

ADL has tracked anti-Semitic incidents for the past four decades and in 2018 recorded the third-highest number of incidents. The total of 2018 incidents decreased by 5% from the 1,986 incidents ADL recorded in 2017. The 2018 total is 48% higher than the number of incidents in 2016 and 99% higher than in 2015.

 

The 1,879 incidents are divided into three major categories: Harassment (where a Jewish person or group of people feel harassed by the perceived anti-Semitic words, spoken or written, or actions of another person or group); Vandalism (where property is damaged in a manner that indicates the presence of anti-Semitic animus or in a manner that attacks Jews for their religious affiliation); and Assault (where people’s bodies are targeted with violence accompanied by evidence of anti-Semitic animus). In 2018, there were 1,066 cases of harassment, an increase of 5% from 2017; 774 cases of vandalism, a decrease of 19% from 2017; and 39 cases of assault, an increase of 105% from 2017.

 


Anti-Semitic incidents occurred in a wide variety of locations including places of business, private homes, public areas such as parks, streets and public buildings, Jewish institutions, K-12 schools and college and university campuses. The most common locations for anti-Semitic incidents were: public areas (476 incidents); K-12 non-Jewish schools (344 incidents); private homes (276 incidents) and Jewish institutions (265 incidents).

 

 

 


Incidents were unevenly distributed throughout the year. Reports from January, February, March, April, June, July, August and September all ranged between 101 and 137 incidents each. Incidents spiked in May, when 209 incidents were recorded, mostly as a result of a series of anti-Semitic robocalls sent by white supremacists, which targeted Jewish individuals and institutions with harassing messages. The final three months of the year were also unusually active compared to other months, with 255 incidents in October, 300 in November and 194 in December. Part of the increase in October stemmed from 45 cases of anti-Semitic propaganda distributed by white supremacists, including 35 separate distributions of a flier that blamed Jews for the fraught confirmation process of Justice Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. While fluctuations in incident reporting are difficult to assess with precision, the high number of incidents in November and December may be the result of increased reporting rates in the aftermath of the October 27, 2018, massacre of Jewish worshipers in Pittsburgh.

 
 


The complete dataset of anti-Semitic incidents for 2016-2018 is available on ADL’s H.E.A.T. Map, an interactive online tool that allows users to geographically chart anti-Semitic incidents and extremist activity nationally and regionally. Note that some details have been removed from the incident listings to ensure the privacy of victims.

The Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents is composed of criminal and non-criminal incidents of harassment, vandalism and assault against individuals and groups as reported to ADL by victims, law enforcement and the media. It is not a public opinion poll or an effort to catalog every expression of anti-Semitism.

Incidents are defined as vandalism of property, or as harassment or assault on individuals or groups, where either 1) circumstances indicate anti-Jewish animus on the part of the perpetrator, or 2) the victim(s) could plausibly conclude that they were being victimized due to their Jewish identity. Any vandalism against Jewish religious institutions or cemeteries is also included.

Although some incidents are hate crimes, many incidents included in the Audit include non-criminal acts that rise to the level of an anti-Semitic incident as we define it above. ADL carefully reviews the credibility of all incidents, including obtaining independent verification when possible.

The Audit excludes the following types of incidents:

  • Anti-Semitic activities or statements which take place privately (e.g. at a private extremist meeting) or in a manner that requires potential victims to “opt-in” in order to access them (e.g. by going to particular websites where unmoderated discussion occurs, looking at specific individuals’ social media pages, etc.)
  • Instances of discrimination (e.g. a Jewish worker not receiving an accommodation for Rosh Hashanah), unless the discrimination is accompanied by verbal harassment as described above.
  • General expressions of white supremacist or other hateful ideologies, unless those expressions include overt anti-Semitic elements.

The Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents includes cases where individuals or groups were harassed online by being sent anti-Semitic content in direct messages, on listservs or in social media settings where they would have reasonable expectation to not be subjected to anti-Semitism. The Audit does not attempt to assess the total amount of anti-Semitism online. ADL has pioneered other efforts to assess anti-Semitism online, including in reports such as Quantifying Hate: A Year of Anti-Semitism on Twitter  and Online Hate and Harassment: The American Experience.

ADL is careful to not conflate general criticism of Israel or anti-Israel activism with anti- Semitism. However, Israel-related harassment of groups or individuals may be included when the harassment incorporates established anti-Jewish references, accusations and/or conspiracy theories. We have also included cases of picketing of Jewish religious or cultural institutions for their purported support for Israel.

The graphics that follow represent the states with the highest numbers of incidents.

 
 
 
 
 
 


A full chart of all 50 states and Washington D.C. can be found in the table below.
 

 

ADL has a comprehensive approach to addressing anti-Semitic incidents and behavior, including educating youth to prevent these activities and working with law enforcement to apprehend the perpetrators. ADL also works to enact laws to improve federal, state and local prevention tactics and response to anti-Semitic hate crimes and all forms of hate violence. ADL partners with law enforcement to raise awareness of extremist threats and trains law enforcement professionals to recognize and disrupt potential threats. ADL likewise provides education and training every day to students, reaching young people at a time when they are most vulnerable to bullying and social pressures. ADL’s No Place for Hate and Words to Action programs teach understanding and promote inclusivity in schools and on campuses, respectively. 

ADL has been a longstanding partner in the effort to ensure the safety of Jewish community organizations and recently announced that former Homeland Security Secretaries Michael Chertoff and Jeh Johnson will co-chair a new Community Safety and Security Task Force convened by ADL and the Secure Community Network (SCN), the homeland security and safety initiative of The Jewish Federations of North America and the Conference of President of Major American Jewish Organizations. The task force will work to enhance the safety, security and resiliency of religious communities.

"Since 1979 the Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents produced by the Anti-Defamation League has been an incredibly valuable resource for researchers and policymakers...The audit identifies trends and emerging issues in hate crimes and analyzes these trends in ways that allow policymakers to address the issues in their jurisdiction. The increased number of anti-Semitic incidents tied to extremist groups is deeply troubling and should be addressed immediately by police and prosecutors.” - Jack McDevitt, Director of the Institute on Race and Justice at Northeastern University

 

1) Speak out against anti-Semitism and all forms of hate.

The 2018 Audit includes the deadliest anti-Semitic incident in American history – the murder of 11 Shabbat worshippers at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh by an individual allegedly inspired by white supremacist and anti-immigrant ideology.

  • Public officials and civic leaders — from mayors to the President — and law enforcement authorities should use their bully pulpits to speak out against anti-Semitism and all forms of hate and extremism. These officials must support efforts to provide law enforcement officials with the tools and training they need to prevent and effectively respond to hate crimes, while providing comfort and assistance to individual victims and community members. Simply put, it cannot be said often enough: America is no place for hate.

2) Hold congressional hearings on the increase in hate crimes and the rise of extremist groups.

The 2018 Audit documents 249 anti-Semitic incidents that involved extremist groups or individuals inspired by extremist ideology — the highest level of anti-Semitic incidents with known connections to extremists or extremist groups since ADL began collecting data for the Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents in 1979. 

  • Recognizing that far-right extremism is a major and growing threat in this era, Congress should hold hearings on the increase in hate crimes, the rise of extremist groups and proliferation of their propaganda. While the House Judiciary Committee recently held hearings on the rise of white nationalism – at which ADL provided testimony – the hearing itself showed how much more work must be done by Congress on these issues and how many distractions have kept us from moving forward with adequate legislation. Further hearings will raise awareness and identify best practices and effective responses to hate.  
  • Congress should support legislation that calls upon the federal government to improve coordinated response, collect data on domestic terrorism and ensure training for law enforcement on best practices to combat domestic terrorism. Any legislation in this arena must focus on specific criminal acts and not cross the line to punishing First Amendment-protected expression.

3) Federal, state and local law enforcement agencies should improve their procedures for responding to and reporting hate crimes.

Data drives policy. We cannot address a problem if we are not effectively tracking and measuring it.

  • Every state should enact comprehensive, inclusive hate crime laws. Effective responses to anti-Semitic incidents and hate violence by public officials and law enforcement authorities can play an essential role in deterring and preventing these crimes.
  • The federal government and state and local officials should provide the necessary training to encourage all law enforcement agencies to more comprehensively collect and report hate crimes data to the FBI and state authorities. 
  • We must encourage victims and bystanders to report all anti-Semitic incidents and vandalism to ADL and to local police.  If we expect law enforcement officials and community members to take these incidents seriously, we must take them seriously. 

4) Promote anti-bias, bullying prevention and civics education programs in elementary and secondary schools.

Laws addressing hate violence are important, but they have limits.  We must recognize that it is not possible to legislate or regulate racism, anti-Semitism and bigotry out of existence.

  • Congress, the Department of Education, state legislatures and mayors should increase funding to promote an inclusive school climate, and for anti-bias education and hate crime prevention. Schools should be directed to implement properly crafted anti-bullying, cyberbullying and harassment education and training initiatives.
  • Every elementary and secondary school should promote activities that celebrate our nation’s diversity and inclusivity — and regularly integrate anti-bias and anti-hate content in their curricula and extra-curricular activities. 

5) Enact the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act

Anti-Semitism is disturbingly pervasive and is moving into the mainstream. In recent years, hostility towards Jewish students and Israel, and anti-Semitic incidents on college campuses have attracted considerable national attention.

  • Congress should pass the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act, which is designed to help the Department of Education and Department of Justice effectively determine whether an investigation of an incident of anti-Semitism is warranted under their statutory anti-discrimination enforcement authority. 
  • While most incidents of anti-Semitism on campus are unrelated to anti-Israel activity, the Department of Education and the Department of Justice should have the authority to investigate instances in which anti-Israel activity — including anti-Semitic stereotypes and anti-Israel or anti-Zionism expressions coded as political discourse — cross the line to targeted, intentional, unlawful, discriminatory intimidation and harassment of Jewish students. 

6) Strengthen laws against perpetrators of online hate.

Though this report merely scratches the surface of anti-Semitism online, the connection between online abuse and in-person violence cannot be ignored.

  • At the federal and state level, policymakers should work to fill the gaps in addressing the impact of technological advances. This includes addressing the offline consequences of online hate, pursuing genuine dialogue with the technology sector to better counter extremism online and working with technology companies to find solutions to emerging challenges.   
  • Consistent with the First Amendment, Congress and state legislators should craft laws that hold perpetrators of severe online hate and harassment more accountable for their conduct.

7) Improve social media and technology company openness and responsiveness.

  • Tech and social media companies should improve their own terms of service related to hate and extremism, enforce them more effectively and proactively remove extremist content.
  • Tech and social media companies must allow independent, interdisciplinary external audits of hate in order to help come up with and implement rigorous frameworks for tracking the proliferation, type, impact, effectiveness of responses to anti-Semitism and other forms of hate, and disclose data to the public that is now either not tracked or not made public.  

The Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents is a project of ADL’s Center on Extremism, whose work is supported in part by the following generous donors: Roman Abramovich, the David Berg Foundation, The Molly Blank Fund of the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation, Nathan Cummings Foundation, Ford Foundation, Joyce and Irving Goldman Family Foundation, The Marlene Nathan Meyerson Family Foundation, Rowland & Sylvia Schaefer Family Foundation, Inc., Charles and Mildred Schnurmacher Foundation, The Nancy K. Silverman Foundation, Louis Sobelman, and the Zegar Family Foundation, as well as numerous others.