In 2019, there were 61 known antisemitic assaults in the U.S. An antisemitic assault is defined in the Audit as an attempt to inflict physical harm on one or more people who are Jewish or perceived to be Jewish, accompanied by evidence of antisemitic animus. Eleven of the assaults were perpetrated with a potentially deadly weapon such as a knife, gun or vehicle. The rest consisted of chokings, punches and the throwing of small objects such as pebbles or a bottle.
More than half of the assaults nationwide took place in the five boroughs of New York City, including 25 in Brooklyn, five in Manhattan, one in the Bronx and one in Queens. Five assaults took place in the greater Los Angeles metropolitan area, and three took place in the greater Miami area. The remaining assaults were spread across the country, with no other city recording more than one.
Three-quarters of the assaults took place on streets and other public areas. The rest of the assaults were perpetrated in schools, homes, and businesses. Three occurred at synagogues.
A total 95 individuals were directly targeted during the assaults in 2019. (In some cases, there were larger numbers of people nearby who emerged physically unscathed in the attacks, such as the attacks on the synagogue in Poway and the home in Monsey.) This is a 61% increase over the 59 victims of assault in 2018. There were 21 victims in 2017.
There were three major attacks on the Jewish community in 2019, all of which resulted in fatalities.
Six months after the deadly shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh on October 27, 2018, white supremacist John T. Earnest opened fire at a synagogue in Poway, California. Earnest armed himself for the April 27 attack with a semiautomatic firearm and a handgun, and opened fire on worshipers at the Chabad of Poway during services on the final day of Passover. The rampage left one dead and three injured.
A manifesto purportedly written by Earnest was uploaded to the document-hosting site PasteBin shortly before the attack. Brenton Tarrant, the Australian white supremacist who attacked two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, on March 15, 2019, uploaded a similar manifesto. Tarrant and Earnest’s manifestos shared many of the same themes and rhetoric of Islamophobia and extreme antisemitism.
Jersey City, NJ
On December 10, 2019, David N. Anderson and Francine Graham drove to JC Kosher Supermarket in Jersey City, NJ, where Graham allegedly fired shots into the establishment, killing three civilians inside the store and injuring another. The couple left behind a stolen U-Haul van that contained an arsenal of weapons and a handwritten note that implied a theological justification or imperative for the attack. Online identities linked to Anderson show that he espoused Black Hebrew Israelite (BHI) ideology. BHI disagree with the traditional view that contemporary Jews are descendants of the 12 biblical tribes of Israel, and argue instead that various non-European indigenous peoples, including Black Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans, are the true heirs. Some members of the movement identify or introduce themselves as belonging to specific tribes, which are named after the sons of the biblical patriarch, Jacob. This includes the Tribe of Judah, which is made up of Black Americans, many of whom believe this tribe is especially blessed because of Black Americans’ history of persecution.
According to New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal, the attack is being investigated as an act of domestic terrorism that was motivated by antisemitic and anti-law enforcement sentiments (the perpetrators also killed a police detective prior to attacking the kosher market).
According to police reports, Grafton Thomas entered a local rabbi’s home in Monsey, New York, during a Hanukkah party on December 28, 2019, attacking attendees with a large knife. The attack left five injured,. including Josef Neumann, who died of his injuries on March 29, 2020, three months after the attack.
The attack began just as the rabbi was preparing to light the menorah to mark the seventh night of Hanukkah. Monsey, a town in Rockland County, outside New York City, is home to a significant Jewish population.
According to police and media reports, Thomas entered the home on Saturday just before 10 pm, screaming, “I’ll get you.” It is alleged that he fled the scene after stabbing multiple people. He was apprehended two hours later in Harlem, reportedly covered in blood and smelling of bleach.
On December 29, police in Ramapo, New York, charged Thomas with five counts of attempted murder and one count of burglary, to which Thomas pleaded not guilty. The following day, on December 30, federal prosecutors filed hate crimes charges against Thomas. According to news reports, the Rockland District Attorney announced that he would seek to charge Thomas with murder following the death of Josef Neumann.
Of the 61 assaults in 2019, 25 occurred in Brooklyn. In December 2019, ADL documented eight assaults in the borough within an eight-day span (December 23rd and December 31st). These assaults took place primarily in the neighborhoods of Williamsburg and Crown Heights, which are home to large numbers of Orthodox Jews. All eight of these documented assaults were perpetrated against individuals who were visibly Jewish. Objects were thrown at victims, antisemitic slurs were shouted, and at least three victims were hit or punched in their heads or faces. Three of the assaults took place on just one day in Crown Heights; seven of the eight documented assaults took place during Hanukkah; all took place very shortly after the deadly attack in Jersey City, New Jersey, or immediately before the violent knife attack in Monsey, New York.
Extremist Groups / Individuals
Known extremist groups or individuals inspired by extremist ideology were responsible for 270 antisemitic incidents in 2019, up from 249 such incidents in 2018. In both years, these made up 13% of all incidents recorded in the Audit.
Of the 270 incidents attributable to hate groups or extremists, 212 took the form of antisemitic fliers, banners, stickers, or written messages. The biggest perpetrators were members of Daily Stormer Book Clubs (77 incidents) and the New Jersey European Heritage Association (76 incidents). The Loyal White Knights, a Klan group, were responsible for 18 antisemitic fliering incidents.
Daily Stormer Book Clubs (DSBC) are small crews of young white men who follow and support Andrew Anglin and his neo-Nazi website, The Daily Stormer. Their propaganda is genferally antisemitic and often targets college campuses or Jewish institutions and is largely distributed as part of coordinated efforts by multiple chapters.
In 2019, DSBC’s fliers included claims that the Holocaust was “fake news” and that Jews molest children and “push pornography” on them. A flier distributed during the summer of 2019 depicted Brenton Tarrant, the shooter charged with killing 51 worshipers at mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, with his mouth covered by the Star of David and the word “Jude,” and the words, “Censorship Ends in Violence.”
Sixteen of the DSBC antisemitic fliers were distributed at non-Jewish places of worship, such as mosques and churches, in Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Massachusetts, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, and Washington state.
The New Jersey European Heritage Association (NJEHA) was founded in 2018 and is a small white supremacist group whose members see themselves as defenders of white European people and white culture. The NJEHA often distributes explicitly white supremacist propaganda claiming the white race is endangered, but some of the group’s propaganda promotes the conspiracy theory that Israel intentionally targeted a U.S. warship during the height of the 1967 Six-Day War. NJEHA’s most recent flier, “Wake Up America – Your Country has been Subverted,” contains numerous antisemitic tropes and refers to Jews as “destroyers.”
Additional propaganda was distributed by Loyal White Knights (LWK), a Klan group best known for its vitriolic and often antisemitic messaging. In 2019, LWK’s propaganda targeted Jews for being responsible for an “open border policy,” “destroying” the economy, and other social ills.
Other Extremist Activity
The remaining 58 incidents of extremist activity included the previously mentioned assaults, acts of antisemitic vandalism and several small protests outside Jewish and pro-Israel institutions.
Incidents of vandalism included a coordinated effort in September by The Base, a small militant neo-Nazi organization, which orchestrated a multi-state vandalism ring dubbed “Operation Kristallnacht” where synagogues in Michigan and Wisconsin were targeted with antisemitic graffiti including swastikas, other Nazi imagery and The Base logo. The event was orchestrated by Richard Tobin, an 18-year-old from Brooklawn, New Jersey, who was arrested by federal authorities in November. According to officials, Tobin admitted to having ties to The Base, and to having helped coordinate the targeting of the two synagogues. Two other arrests were made in connection to the Michigan and Wisconsin vandalism incidents.
In April, ADL helped to identify Corbin Kauffman, a white supremacist, who spray-painted antisemitic graffiti at a park, plastered a display case at Chabad Jewish Center in Ocean City, Maryland with white supremacist and antisemitic stickers, and posted photos of his vandalism. He was charged with interstate transmission of threats, a federal crime that carries a maximum of five years in prison.
In May, members of the white supremacist group, Shield Wall Network, disrupted a local Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony in Russellville, Arkansas chanting “six million more,” “God has the ovens warmed up,” and “Hitler didn’t finish the job.”
Extremist group Witness for Peace targeted a synagogue in Michigan every week on Shabbat. An expanded analysis of these protests can be found in the Anti-Israel/Anti-Zionism section of this report.
Other noteworthy antisemitic extremist activity in 2019 included a trolling campaign conducted by the white supremacist forum Vanguard News Network (VNN). VNN, which was founded in the early 2000s, provided a place for users to post publicly available photos of Jewish people (primarily women and girls) in order to mock their appearance. There was no call for violence against the people whose photos were posted; the thread appeared to have been an attempt to highlight what many antisemitic and white supremacists consider stereotypical Jewish physical attributes. The Audit recorded those who reported to ADL that their name and photo were on the list.
Black Hebrew Israelites, a movement whose members frequently adopt antisemitic and extremist beliefs, were implicated in the attacks in Jersey City. See above for more details.
More information about the threats extremists have posed to Jewish institutions is available here.
In 2019 there were 411 antisemitic incidents reported in non-Jewish K-12 schools, an increase of 19% from the 344 incidents reported in 2018. Of the 411 incidents in 2019, 184 were incidents of harassment, 220 were incidents of vandalism, and 7 were incidents of physical assault.
The 184 incidents of harassment in K-12 schools represent a 6% increase from the 173 incidents of harassment in 2018. Harassment incidents in 2019 included one-off incidents such as when a student announced to their class, “The Nazis should have killed all the Jews, especially this sub,” as well as ongoing harassment by peers taunting Jewish students with Holocaust jokes and references. Some of the harassment was carried out on social media, including cases where non-Jewish students targeted one or more Jewish students in a Snapchat or Instagram post, or created and circulated videos on TikTok, a platform for short-form mobile videos.
The 220 incidents of antisemitic vandalism in K-12 schools in 2019 represent a 30% increase from the 169 incidents reported in 2018. Fully two-thirds of the vandalism consisted of swastikas unaccompanied by any other messages or iconography and which did not specifically target a Jewish person.
Though the number of reported incidents increased 19% from 2018, it was a 10% decrease from the 457 incidents reported in 2017. Given the insidious nature of schoolyard bullying compounded by the fact that many children may not feel empowered to report their experiences, it is likely that the actual number of antisemitic incidents taking place in schools was significantly higher than the number reported in the Audit.
In 2019 there were 186 reported antisemitic incidents on American university and college campuses, a decrease of 7% from 201 reported incidents in 2018.
Of the 186 campus incidents, 97 were incidents of harassment and 89 were incidents of vandalism. There were no reported incidents of assault. Approximately 14% of the incidents on campuses were related to the distribution of antisemitic white supremacist propaganda by groups or individuals. Of the 89 incidents of vandalism, 65 incidents included one or more swastikas.
Thirty-eight, or 20%, of the 186 campus incidents involved references to Israel or Zionism. More information on the nature of those incidents can be found in the Anti-Zionist/Anti-Israel section of this report. Other acts of vandalism included the desecration of mezuzot (small ritual items that some Jews affix to the doorpost of the front door of their homes) in residential halls, messages of anti-Jewish animus such as “We must exterminate the Jews” and “fuck the Jews,” random swastika drawings found in academic and residential halls, or images of swastikas accompanying threatening messages targeting Jewish students.
Jewish institutions, including Jewish schools, community centers and synagogues, were the targets of 234 antisemitic incidents in 2019. This is a decrease of 12% from the 265 reported incidents in 2018. 150 of these incidents specifically targeted synagogues.
Of the 234 incidents targeting Jewish institutions, 171 were incidents of harassment and 60 were incidents of vandalism. There were three incidents of physical assault, one of which was the Poway, California synagogue shooting, which resulted in one death and two injuries (see Assaults section). The other two assaults both occurred in Florida. In one incident, a Jewish man was shot six times outside his synagogue while waiting for prayers to begin, and in the other two Jewish people were attacked outside their synagogue by a man wielding a knife and yelling “go back to Israel” and calling the victims “fake Jews.”
Fifty of the incidents targeting Jewish institutions were perpetrated by extremists. The vast majority of these took the form of harassment, such as white supremacist flierings or anti-Israel extremist protests. Four were cases of vandalism. One was the assault on the synagogue in Poway.
Jewish graves and/or cemeteries were desecrated six times in 2019. The desecration of Jewish headstones is a long-standing form of antisemitism that has been employed for centuries by antisemites looking to scare, victimize and offend Jews. It is a cowardly act and is especially disturbing seeing as those buried have no means of defending themselves.
- Headstones at a Jewish cemetery were vandalized with antisemitic messages including "Heil Hitler" and "Expel the Jews," as well as a swastika. (March 2019, Fall River, MA)
- Swastika vandalism discovered at Mount Evergreen Cemetery. (June 2019, Jackson, MS)
- Atomwaffen Division, a neo-Nazi group, distributed antisemitic propaganda that read: "6 million kikes? We Wish." (July 2019, Birmingham, MI)
- A Jewish person's headstone in a cemetery was vandalized with a swastika etching. (October 2019, Los Angeles, CA)
- About 75 headstones were vandalized at Temple Israel Cemetery, causing more than $50,000 in damage. (October 2019, Omaha, NE)
- A building at a Jewish cemetery was vandalized with swastika graffiti. (October 2019, Cheektowaga, NY)
This compares to eight cemetery desecrations in 2018.
Anti-Zionist / Anti-Israel Incidents
171 antisemitic incidents in 2019 referenced Israel or Zionism. Of those, 68 took the form of propaganda efforts by white supremacist groups to foment anti-Israel and antisemitic beliefs. For example, the New Jersey European Heritage Association distributed numerous fliers which called on readers to “Remember the USS Liberty,” a reference to the Israeli attack on a U.S. ship in the Mediterranean Sea during the Six Day War in 1967. White supremacists and other antisemites view the attack on the U.S.S. Liberty as proof of Jews and Zionists’ malign agenda for non-Jews, and promote the belief that the U.S. government covered up the incidents as proof that Jews control the U.S. government. Many other fliers distributed by white supremacists included the phrase, “Open borders for Israel,” which expresses the belief, common among white supremacists, that American Jews are manipulating U.S. immigration policy in order to undermine the U.S.’s white majority population while at the same time hypocritically demanding a pure Jewish ethnostate in Israel.
There were five instances in which Patriot Front, a white supremacist group, held protests outside Israel-aligned organizations such as AIPAC in order to oppose “Zionist influence” over the United States. Although it is not antisemitic to protest Israeli policies, these protests must be considered within the context of this group’s well-documented antisemitic agenda.
Throughout 2019, anti-Israel extremist group Witness for Peace (WFP) conducted almost weekly protests outside an Ann Arbor, Michigan synagogue. WFP members typically hold signs with slogans like “Resist Jewish Power,” “Israeli citizens in OUR Congress??” and “AMERICA First, NOT Israel.” WFP’s leader and founder, Henry Herskovitz, is a Holocaust denier. He has explained that he is motivated to convene these protests because, in his view, the synagogue’s support for Israel makes the congregation complicit in Israel’s “nationalist agenda” and its “brutal and illegal military occupation of Palestinian lands and the suffering of the Palestinian people.” It is antisemitic to target Jewish people who are engaged in religious observances for harassment over their purported support for Israel and to hold them responsible for the policies of Israel’s government.
Other incidents involved antisemitic expressions of anti-Israel and anti-Zionist animus on campus. Students expressed this animus in columns of their respective campus newspapers. At Occidental College in Los Angeles, one student equated Zionism and white supremacy, claiming that racism and the white supremacist ideology is “central to Zionism.” At University of California, Davis, a graduate student who supports Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) published a column in the campus newspaper, writing, “two specific instances of white supremacy have situated themselves on our campus as ‘marginalized voices’: the Blue Lives Matter movement (and policing generally) and Zionism.”
As part of Israeli Apartheid Week at Vassar College in April, SJP distributed an “Educational Zine,” which stated, in part, “we recognize the racism inherent in Zionist ideology” and “Zionism exists as a form of racism.”
Twice at Cal State Fullerton, members of the school’s SJP erected an “apartheid wall” that included a panel with a message reading, “Zionism=racism,” once in April and again in November.
In November, at Simmons University in Boston, Massachusetts, handwritten messages were placed on fliers advertising a Hillel Birthright Israel trip that read, "If celebrating Judaism means funding GENOCIDE, you're not practicing spirituality, you're practicing WHITE SUPREMACY."
In November, fliers accusing Jews in Florida of attacking campus free speech were posted around the University of Central Florida campus. The fliers blamed Jews for a 2019 law that the Florida governor signed, which the flier claims “restricts legitimate criticism of Israel and the role of Jews in the United States.”
In May, a San Francisco State University bathroom was defaced with graffiti that included a swastika with a Star of David in the center, and the message “Free Palestine” written next to it.