ADL Survey Finds American Jews Feel More Threatened Than At Any Time in Past Decade

Half of those polled have experienced antisemitism firsthand; 63 percent of Jews feel “less safe”

New York, NY, April 21, 2020 …  Nearly two-thirds of American Jews believe that they are less safe today than they were a decade ago, according to a new ADL (the Anti-Defamation League) survey on Jewish encounters with antisemitism in the United States.

The ADL survey found that more than half of American Jews (54 percent) have either experienced or witnessed an incident they believe was motivated by antisemitism. And nearly two-thirds of Jews (63 percent) say their communities are “less safe” than they were a decade ago.

“Our tracking has shown that lethal and nonlethal antisemitic attacks have been on the rise in recent years, and now we’ve also found that American Jews are deeply concerned for their personal safety and their families’ and communities’ security in a way that they haven’t been in more than a decade,” said Jonathan A. Greenblatt, ADL CEO and National Director. “It is a sad state of affairs that in the face of widespread anxiety about antisemitic attacks, some Jewish Americans are modifying their routines and avoiding public displays of Judaism to minimize the risk of being targeted.”

The survey was conducted in January 2020, prior to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. “We recognize the reality on the ground has changed dramatically for Jewish communities, as it has for all communities, in recent months; this survey offers a snapshot of a window in time prior to the coronavirus outbreak that has so altered our daily lives,” Greenblatt said. “We are also assessing the state of antisemitism in the current environment and its impact on the Jewish community and will have additional data to share in the weeks and months ahead.”

The survey’s key findings:

  • About half of Jews (49 percent) say they have heard antisemitic comments, slurs or threats targeting others. One-in-five of those surveyed (21 percent) have themselves been directly targeted by antisemitic remarks.
  • One-in-five (22 percent) of those polled are affiliated with a Jewish institution that has been vandalized, damaged or defaced because of antisemitism.
  • One-in-seven (14 percent) know someone who has been physically attacked because they are Jewish.
  • About 14 percent of Jews have experienced antisemitic harassment online.
  • Roughly half of those surveyed said they were worried that a person wearing a yarmulke, religious skullcap or other public display of Judaism would be physically assaulted or verbally harassed on the street or in a public place.
  • About one-in-four American Jews (27 percent) have employed at least one strategy to avoid being targeted, with the most common strategy (12 percent) being avoiding markers of Jewish identification, including not using one’s last name, or not wearing a Jewish star or identifying as Jewish on a social media site.
  • One in-ten of those surveyed (11 percent) reported having trouble sleeping or concentrating or feeling anxious after experiencing online hate or harassment.

In 2019, American Jews were barraged with news about violent antisemitic attacks, including a fatal shooting at the Chabad of Poway by a white supremacist on April 27, a fatal shooting at a kosher supermarket in Jersey City, New Jersey on December 10, and fatal stabbings at a Hanukkah celebration in Monsey, New York, on December 28.

The survey, released as Jews observe Yom HaShoah, or Holocaust Remembrance Day, was conducted by YouGov, a leading public opinion and data analytics firm. A total of 538 responses were collected from January 17-30, 2020 and weighted to reflect the demographic makeup of Jews across the U.S. The margin of error is +/- 4 percent.

The survey findings come as antisemitic incidents have increased dramatically in the past three years. ADL’s annual Audit of Antisemitic Incidents reported more than 1,800 incidents in 2018, the third highest total in 40 years. This came on the heels of the 2017 Audit, which documented a 57 percent surge over the prior year, the highest on record. ADL will publish data for 2019 soon.

If you or someone you know has been the victim of an antisemitic incident, we urge you to contact your local ADL regional office or fill out the form on this page. 

ADL is the world’s leading anti-hate organization. Founded in 1913 in response to an escalating climate of anti-Semitism and bigotry, its timeless mission is to protect the Jewish people and to secure justice and fair treatment for all. Today, ADL continues to fight all forms of hate with the same vigor and passion. A global leader in exposing extremism, delivering anti-bias education, and fighting hate online, ADL is the first call when acts of anti-Semitism occur. ADL’s ultimate goal is a world in which no group or individual suffers from bias, discrimination or hate.