Six Facts About Threats to The Jewish Community

Six facts

January 17, 2022


1. Jews are consistently the most targeted religious community in the U.S.

According to the FBI’s annual data on hate crimes, defined as criminal offenses which are motivated by bias, crimes targeting the Jewish community consistently constitute over half of all religion-based crimes. The number of hate crimes against Jews has ranged between 600 and 1,200 each year since the FBI began collecting data in the 1990s. There were 683 hate crimes against Jews in 2020, 963 in 2019 and 847 in 2018.

The FBI’s data is based on voluntary reporting by local law enforcement. For a variety of reasons, dozens of large cities either underreport or do not report hate crime data at all.

2. Antisemitic incidents are being reported at record levels:

ADL’s annual Audit of Antisemitic Incidents, which tracks incidents of antisemitic harassment, vandalism and assault in the U.S., also illustrates the danger facing American Jews. In 2020, ADL tabulated 2,024 reported antisemitic incidents throughout the country. While this was a four percent decrease from the 2,107 incidents recorded in 2019, it was still the third-highest year on record since ADL began tracking antisemitic incidents in 1979.

Of the 2,024 incidents recorded in 2020, 1,242 were cases of harassment, a 10% increase from 1,127 in 2019, and 751 incidents were cases of vandalism, an 18% decrease from 919 in 2019. The 31 incidents of antisemitic assault (a 49% decrease from 61 in 2019), involved 41 victims and no fatalities. Of the physical assaults against Jewish individuals, the vast majority were perpetrated without the use of a deadly weapon.

3. Jewish institutions are vulnerable targets

In 2020, there were 327 reported antisemitic incidents at Jewish institutions such as synagogues, Jewish community centers and Jewish schools, an increase of 40% from 234 in 2019. Two hundred and sixty-four (264) were incidents of harassment, 61 were incidents of vandalism and three were incidents of assault. Of the 264 incidents of harassment, 114 were “Zoombombings.”

Thirty-four of these incidents  were perpetrated by extremists. Almost all of them were harassment, including white supremacist fliering incidents or anti-Israel extremist protests. One was an act of vandalism.

4. Jews are regularly targeted because of their actual or perceived support for Israel and Zionism

From 2018 to 2020, between seven and nine percent of antisemitic incidents reported to ADL have explicitly incorporated anti-Israel or anti-Zionist elements. This includes Jewish people being told they should “go back to Israel,” synagogues being vandalized with pro-Palestinian graffiti, the distribution of flyers blaming Israel for perpetrating the 9/11 terrorist attacks, or Jewish students being harassed or excluded from student life because of their real or assumed connections to Israel. In January 2022 an individual was arrested by detectives with the New York Police Department Hate Crimes Task Force for using antisemitic slurs while physically assaulting a Jewish man who refused his demands to remove a sweatshirt with the logo of the Israel Defense Forces. 

Antisemitic incidents in the U.S. more than doubled during and immediately after the May 2021 military conflict between Israel and Hamas compared to the same time period in 2020. Assaults saw the most dramatic year-over-year increase, rising from zero between May 11-31, 2020, to 11 in the same period in May 2021. There is evidence that at least seven of the antisemitic assaults were motivated by anger over the conflict in the Middle East. 

5. Extremists and antisemites perpetrate deadly violence against Jews

Since 2016, individuals with connections to extremist/antisemitic groups or ideologies perpetrated at least six deadly attacks on Jews:

  • El Paso, Texas, November 2020: Antisemite Joseph Angel Alvarez allegedly murdered attorney Georgette Kaufman and wounded her husband. According to police, Alvarez said he was "executing and exterminating the pro-choice Jewish Satan worshippers."
  • Monsey, New York, December 2019: Five people were injured, including one who later died of his injuries, when Grafton Thomas attacked a Hanukkah party at the home of a rabbi in Monsey, New York with a machete. Federal prosecutors filed hate crime charges against Thomas after discovering evidence of antisemitic ideologies in his journal and search history, including searches for "why did Hitler hate the Jews," "German Jewish Temples near me," and "Zionist temples."  Thomas has since been declared unfit to stand trial and was ordered committed to a psychiatric facility for continued evaluation.
  • Jersey City, New Jersey, December 10, 2019: David Anderson and Francine Graham shot and killed a police officer at a cemetery before driving to a kosher market and killing three more people. Anderson and Graham were killed during the subsequent standoff and shootout. One civilian and two police officers were also shot but survived. Both Anderson and Graham had expressed Black Hebrew Israelite and antisemitic views in the past. A note reportedly found in their vehicle read, “I do this because my creator makes me do this, and I hate who he hates.” As of the publication of this report, police are also investigating whether the two may also have been involved in a previous killing as well.
  • Poway, California, April 2019: White supremacist John T. Earnest opened fire at a synagogue in Poway, California, killing one person and injuring three before fleeing. He was reportedly emulating white supremacist Brenton Tarrant's killing spree in New Zealand in March 2019. In December 2021 he was sentenced to life plus thirty years in prison.
  • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, October 27, 2018. White supremacist Robert Bowers murdered 11 people and injured seven more, including four police officers, during services at the Tree of Life Synagogue.  Bowers was a virulent antisemite who, among other things, blamed Jews for orchestrating the immigration of non-whites into the United States.
  • Orange County, California, January 2, 2018. White supremacist Samuel Woodward, a member of the neo-Nazi group Atomwaffen, was arrested for killing Blaze Bernstein, a former high school acquaintance.  Woodward allegedly stabbed Bernstein 20 times in the face and neck before burying him in a shallow grave. Woodward was charged with first-degree murder with a hate crime enhancement (Bernstein was Jewish and gay).

6. Jews have been the targets of at least 21 extremist plots or credible threats since 2016

  • January 2022, Colleyville, Texas: A gunman entered Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas, during services, and took three congregants and a rabbi as hostages. The attacker reportedly demanded the release of Aafia Siddiqui, who is serving an 86-year prison sentence at the Federal Medical Center (FMC) Carswell in Fort Worth, Texas. The standoff ended more than ten hours later with all hostages released, apparently unharmed, and the alleged perpetrator, identified as 44-year-old British national Malik Faisal Akram, dead. 
  • April 2020, Assumption, Illinois: Federal agents charged white supremacist Randall Burrus with weapons offenses in connection with an alleged plot to attack a synagogue.
  • April 2020, East Longmeadow, Massachusetts:  Federal agents arrested white supremacist John Michael Rathbun for allegedly attempting to burn down a Jewish assisted living facility. In June 2021, Rathbun was convicted on two federal counts related to the plot.
  • March 2020, Belton, Missouri:  White supremacist Timothy Wilson was killed in a shootout with the FBI as they attempted to arrest him for plotting to blow up a hospital housing Covid-19 patients in the Kansas City area. Wilson reportedly discussed other possible targets, including a school with a large African-American student population, a synagogue and a mosque.
  • November 2019, Pueblo, Colorado:  Federal authorities arrested Neo-Nazi and white supremacist Richard Holzer on charges related to an alleged plot to blow up a synagogue. In February 2021, Holzer pleaded guilty and was sentenced to over 19 years in prison, followed by 15 years of supervised release. Holzer admitted he planned the bombing and that it was “a move for our race” in preparation for a racial holy war.
  • September 2019, Racine, Wisconsin: Yousef O. Barasneh, a member of the neo-Nazi group, The Base, allegedly vandalized the Beth Israel Sinai Congregation with antisemitic graffiti, as part of a multi-state plot against Jews dubbed “Operation Kristallnacht” by the white supremacist conspirators. Barasneh was later apprehended and pleaded guilty to criminal charges related to the plot, as did Richard Tobin, who allegedly orchestrated it. Tobin was 19 at the time."
  • August 2019, Youngstown, Ohio: James Reardon Jr., a white nationalist, was arrested for threatening a Jewish community center on Instagram. A video posted on July 11, 2019, tagged the Youngstown center and shows a man who appears to be Reardon firing a semi-automatic rifle. When he was taken into custody, he had an arsenal of firearms and combat gear in his home. Reardon pleaded guilty to charges of menacing and harassing in May 2021 and was sentenced in September 2021 to 41 months in prison.
  • August 2019, Las Vegas, Nevada:  White supremacist Conor Climo was arrested on a federal weapons charge in connection with a  plot to attack several local targets, including a Messianic church, an ADL office, and an LGBTQ-friendly bar. Climo pleaded guilty in February 2020 to one count of possession of an unregistered firearm. He admitted that he was communicating with individuals who identified themselves as members of the neo-Nazi group Feuerkrieg Division and that he had discussed plans to set fire to a synagogue. Climo was sentenced to two years in prison in November 2020.
  • June 2019, Harlingen, Texas: Harlingen, Texas, police arrested Joel Hayden Schrimsher for planning to mail a bomb to the Federal Reserve, set fire to a mosque and set fire to and shoot up a synagogue. In addition to explosive materials, police also reportedly found white supremacist literature in his house. Schrimsher was sentenced to eight years in state prison on January 2021.
  • June 2019, Concord, California: White supremacist Ross Farca was arrested on charges of making criminal threats and manufacturing and possessing an illegal assault weapon after claiming online that he wanted to imitate alleged Poway shooter John Earnest. On December 1, 2021, a jury found Farca guilty on five counts including weapons and hate crime charges. (edited) 
  • May 2019, Carmel, Indiana: White supremacist Nolan Brewer plotted to burn down a synagogue in Carmel, Indiana. However, upon arrival he was deterred by its security cameras and committed an act of vandalism instead. He pleaded guilty to a federal hate crime and received a three-year sentence.
  • May, 2019, Kent, Washington: Federal authorities arrested white supremacist Chase Bliss Colasurdo of Kent, Washington and charged him with making violent threats against President Trump’s family and media figures, as well as ongoing bomb threats to synagogues. Colasurdo’s posts included images and statements promoting antisemitic conspiracy theories and advocating for the murder of Jews, including Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, who survived the April 2019 shooting attack at the Chabad Congregation in Poway, California. On October 2019, Colasurdo pleaded guilty and was sentenced to five years in prison and three years of supervised release for two counts of interstate threats.
  • May 2019, Basking Ridge, New Jersey: Islamist extremist Jonathan Xie was arrested for attempting to provide material support to Hamas and threatening to shoot pro-Israel supporters, as well as bomb the Israeli consulate and Trump Tower in New York City. In September 2020, Xie pleaded guilty and admitted he concealed his attempts to provide support Hamas.
  • April 2019, Ocean City, Maryland: Corbin Kauffman (aka CK Shekels) of Lehighton, Pennsylvania, was charged with interstate transmission of threats to injure. Kauffman “expressed a desire to commit genocide and ‘hate crimes,’ and called for or depicted images of killing of Jewish people, black people and Muslim people.” Kauffman also plastered a display case at Chabad Jewish Center in Ocean City, Maryland with white supremacist and antisemitic stickers; allegedly spray-painted antisemitic graffiti at a park; and posted photos of the vandalism online. He was sentenced to 18 months in prison in July 2021.
  • February 2019, Silver Spring, Maryland: Coast Guard lieutenant Christopher Paul Hasson, a white supremacist, was arrested by federal authorities on weapon and drug charges in connection with an alleged terrorist plot to attack politicians and media figures. Hasson’s list of targets included Jewish leaders. Hasson was sentenced to more than 13 years in prison in January 2020. He filed an appeal in March 2021.
  • December 2018, Lake Forest Park, Washington: White supremacist Dakota Reed was arrested for allegedly making threats to carry out mass killings of Jews and other minorities. Authorities began to investigate Reed in late October, after the ADL Center on Extremism warned law enforcement about Reed’s violent threats to attack synagogues. Reed made numerous online posts under a variety of pseudonyms, including a call to “take back your future one synagogue at a time” and an announcement that he would “make the news some more and shoot some Jews in 2025.” In other social media posts, he could be seen posing with semi-automatic rifles and making explicit threats about murdering Jewish people.
  • December 2018, Toledo, Ohio: Damon Joseph was arrested for attempting to provide material support to ISIS and plotting to attack a synagogue in the Toledo area. Joseph expressed admiration for Robert Bowers, the Pittsburgh Tree of Life shooter, claiming he admired “what the guy did with the shooting” and that he could see himself “carrying out this type of operations inshallah.” He expressed virulent hatred for Jews and researched when the Jewish sabbath was so that more people would be present at the synagogue when he attacked. Joseph pleaded guilty in May 2021 and was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
  • November 2018, Cary, North Carolina: White supremacist William Josephus Warden was arrested after threatening to damage Congregation Sha’arei Shalom. Prior to the threat, Warden erected and burned a cross in Bond Park and allegedly distributed antisemitic “Aryan Youth” propaganda around the Weatherstone subdivision. He pleaded guilty in January 2020.
  • June 2017, New York, New York: Islamist extremist Ali Kourani was arrested on charges related to completing a number of intel missions for Hezbollah, including collecting surveillance on U.S.-based individuals associated with the Israeli Defense Force and U.S. law enforcement institutions in New York. Kourani was sentenced to 40 years in prison in December 2019.
  • May 2017, Tampa, Florida: Atomwaffen founder and neo-Nazi Brandon Russell pleaded guilty to possessing an unregistered destructive device and unlawful storage of explosive materials and was sentenced to five years in federal prison. According to authorities, he wanted “to kill civilians and target locations like power lines, nuclear reactors, and synagogues.”
  • February 2017, Conway, South Carolina: White supremacist Benjamin Thomas Samuel McDowell was convicted of illegal possession of a firearm and sentenced to 33 months imprisonment followed by 3 years of supervised release after making violent comments directed at a particular Jewish synagogue. McDowell praised Dylann Roof and spoke generally about committing acts of violence against people of the Jewish and Muslim faiths.
  • April 2016, Aventura, Florida: Islamist extremist James Gonzalo Medina was arrested for plotting to bomb the Aventura Turnberry Jewish Center, which includes a synagogue, classrooms, and meeting halls, during Passover. Medina explained that if he was going to conduct an attack, he’d want to do it at a synagogue because “Jewish people are the ones causing the world’s wars and conflicts.” He noted that a Jewish holiday would be a good time to carry out the bombing. Medina was sentenced to 25 years in prison in November 2017.