Explainer: ADL's Methodology for Gathering and Reporting Antisemitic Incident Data

  • June 4, 2021

Since 1979, ADL (the Anti-Defamation League) has compiled data on antisemitic incidents, including both criminal and non-criminal acts, occurring across the United States. These include incidents of harassment, vandalism and assault against individuals and groups. Incident data is gathered from reports from victims, law enforcement and the media, as well as reports obtained by ADL’s 25 regional offices across the country. The data is used to help assess the frequency and level of antisemitic incidents in America and is published annually in our Audit of Antisemitic Incidents and updated monthly on our interactive H.E.A.T. Map

Here’s some additional information on how incident data is collected and what happens to the data once it has been  investigated. 

How are antisemitic incidents defined? 

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) a person or group of people has been victimized due to their Jewish identity. Vandalism of Jewish cultural, educational, or religious institutions is generally included as an incident. Cases of robbery or theft are generally not included. 

Although some incidents are hate crimes, ADL includes non-criminal acts that rise to the level of an antisemitic incident given that American criminal law only covers a small portion of hateful activity. ADL carefully examines the credibility of all incidents, including obtaining independent verification when possible. Once the incidents are deemed credible, they are added to ADL’s H.E.A.T. Map and are ultimately reported in ADL’s Audit of Antisemitic Incidents, which provides an annual snapshot of the trends and types of activity reported throughout the year. The audit categorizes the incidents into one of three specific categories: Assault, Harassment or Vandalism. 

What happens when an incident is first reported? 

Most incidents are investigated first at the regional level, and ADL’s staff in our network of 25 regional offices often will reach out directly to victims and communities to offer direct support and other services, depending on the nature of the incident. The incoming incident data is forward to our Center on Extremism, where a team of researchers is tasked with analyzing this data, identifying trends and updating our online reports. 

Although the data is preliminary, we feel strongly that it is important to report on the current level of antisemitic incidents occurring in the present moment. New reports of incidents which have occurred in the past few days and appear to be credible are often first listed on our Tracker of Antisemitic Incidents. It important to note that this list is not exhaustive and incidents in the Tracker may later be removed if they are determined not credible upon further investigation by ADL.  

The tracker is not meant to be a total tabulation, but rather a timely snapshot of incidents that have occurred in recent days. If we receive a report of an incident which occurred more than a few days in the past, we do not add it to the Tracker.  

Because of the large number of incidents that occur during certain periods, such as a rise in hostilities in the Middle East, there are many incidents which are too old to warrant posting on the Tracker by the time we are able to process them, but that are still a part of our larger and more exhaustive data set on antisemitic incidents that will ultimately appear in our annual audit and in more frequent updates to our H.E.A.T. map. 

Is online hate included in the data? 

Our antisemitic incident data includes cases where individuals or groups were harassed online by being sent antisemitic content in direct messages or in social media settings where they would have the reasonable expectation to not be subjected to antisemitism.  

The incident data does not attempt to assess the total amount of antisemitism online. 

What types of incidents are excluded? 

Not every incident reported to ADL is ultimately included in our data. Every incident is carefully assessed, and those who do not meet our criteria are removed. Here are some of the incident reports that we will omit from our analysis: 

  • Antisemitic 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” to access them (e.g., by going to particular websites where unmoderated discussion occurs, looking at specific individuals’ social media pages, etc.). 
  • Instances of alleged discrimination (e.g., a Jewish worker not receiving an accommodation for a Jewish holiday such as Rosh Hashanah), unless the discrimination is accompanied by verbal harassment. 
  • General expressions of white supremacy or other hateful ideologies, unless those expressions include overt antisemitic elements. 

Does ADL include anti-Israel or anti-Zionism protests in your data? 

No. Most of these protests are considered legitimate forms of First Amendment-protected free expression. ADL is extremely careful to not conflate general criticism of Israel or anti-Israel activism with antisemitism. However, Israel-related harassment of identifiable groups or individuals may be included when the harassment incorporates established anti-Jewish references, accusations and/or conspiracy theories, or when they demonize American Jews for their support of Israel.  

Cases of picketing of Jewish religious or cultural institutions for their purported support for Israel are included in the data. 

We do not include criticism of Israel in our incident data. But public, on the ground activity which foments hatred for Zionists could qualify as an incident. Such activity is an implicit attack on the large percentage of American Jews who view a relationship with Israel to be an important part of their religious, cultural, or social identities. Such rhetoric can be intimidating to many American Jews and has led to their exclusion from progressive spaces simply because of that element of how they define their Jewishness. Those types of overtly hostile expressions may be included in our tallies if they occur at rallies. 

I witnessed an antisemitic act. Where do I report it? 

If you have experienced or witnessed an incident of antisemitism, extremism, bias, bigotry or hate, please report it using our incident form. We will do our best to assess your situation and respond as quickly as possible. Any personal information provided will be kept strictly confidential. If it is an emergency, please dial 911. 

Because of thousands of people who have reported incidents, we have been able to help communities across the country by reporting on trends, educating lawmakers and law enforcement and advocating for stronger protections from incidents and crimes.