Audit of Antisemitic Incidents 2020
Each year, ADL’s (Anti-Defamation League) Center on Extremism tracks incidents of antisemitic harassment, vandalism and assault in the United States. Since 1979, we have published this information in an annual Audit of Antisemitic Incidents.
- In 2020, ADL tabulated 2,024 reported antisemitic incidents throughout the United States. This is a 4% decrease from the 2,107 incidents recorded in 2019 but is 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.
- In 2020 there were no assaults resulting in mass casualties or victims perpetrated against the Jewish community. Of the physical assaults against Jewish individuals, the vast majority were perpetrated without the use of a deadly weapon.
- Incidents in K-12 schools, as well as colleges and universities, decreased in 2020. ADL recorded 161 incidents at non-Jewish K-12 schools (down 61% from 411 incidents in 2019), and 128 incidents at colleges and universities (down 32% from 186 in 2019). This is likely due in part to the COVID-19 pandemic-related school closures and the move to remote learning.
- In 2020, there were 327 reported incidents at Jewish institutions such as synagogues, Jewish community centers and Jewish schools, an increase of 40% from 234 in 2019. 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.”
- In 2020, ADL recorded 331 antisemitic incidents attributed to known extremist groups or individuals inspired by extremist ideology. This represents 16% of the total number of incidents. White supremacist groups were responsible for 277 antisemitic propaganda distributions. Other extremist activity included incidents instigated by the Goyim Defense League, a loose network of individuals connected by their virulent antisemitism. Additionally, ADL was aware of five Zoombombing incidents perpetrated by known extremists including Andrew Aurenheimer, AKA “weev,” who is a known white supremacist and hacker with a history of exploiting technology in order to gain attention.
- 178 antisemitic incidents in 2020 involved references to Israel or Zionism, compared to 175 antisemitic incidents in 2019. Of the 178 incidents in 2020, 38 took the form of white supremacist groups’ propaganda efforts, which attempt to foment anti-Israel and antisemitic beliefs. Most of the remaining incidents were expressions of anti-Israel animus that incorporated antisemitic imagery or harassment and demonization of Jewish students for their connection -- real or assumed -- to Israel.
- Month-by-month comparisons indicate that the COVID-19 lockdown measures had two major impacts on antisemitic incidents in 2020.
- In January and February, antisemitic incidents in schools, colleges and universities were reported at significantly higher levels than they were during the same period in 2019. Those numbers dropped precipitously as educational institutions across the nation switched to remote learning.
- The other impact was on the nature of incidents, particularly those targeting synagogues and Jewish institutions in the form of “Zoombombings.”
Update: The following incident was added to the 2020 Audit of Antisemitic Incidents after the antisemitic motivation of the murder became apparent following the arrest of the alleged perpetrator in September 2021. It is not reflected in the data presented in this report. More information here: https://southwest.adl.org/news/adl-applauds-arrest-of-suspect-in-murder-of-el-paso-attorney/
In November 2020, Joseph Angel Alvarez allegedly attacked and killed attorney Georgette Kaufman and wounded her husband in El Paso, Texas. According to police, Alvarez said he was "executing and exterminating the pro-choice Jewish Satan worshippers." In an e-mail manifesto sent by Alvarez on the night of the killing, police say he referred to alleged Satanic rituals at the location where the couple lived and demanded that people "stop all murder of babies." He also reportedly described the victims as "pro-choice" people and said they were members of the "Jewish Satanist Party."
In 2020, ADL tabulated 2,024 antisemitic incidents throughout the United States. This represents a 4% decrease from 2,107 incidents recorded in 2019 but is still the third highest number on record since ADL began tracking antisemitic incidents in 1979.
Harassment: 1,242 incidents were reported as harassment, defined as cases where one or more Jewish people reported having been harassed by the perceived antisemitic words, spoken or written, or actions of another person or group. Acts of harassment increased 10% from 1,127 in 2019.
Vandalism: 751 incidents took the form of vandalism, defined as cases where property was damaged in a manner that harmed or intimidated Jews. Swastikas, which are generally interpreted by Jews to be symbols of antisemitic hatred, were present in 517 of these incidents. Acts of antisemitic vandalism decreased 18% from 919 in 2019.
Assaults: 31 incidents took the form of assault, defined as cases where people’s bodies are targeted with violence accompanied by evidence of antisemitic animus. Antisemitic assault decreased 49% from 61 in 2019. Five of the assaults were perpetrated with deadly weapons. The 31 assaults resulted in 41 victims and zero fatalities.
* The incident below was added to the 2020 Audit of Antisemitic Incidents after the antisemitic motivation of the murder became apparent following the arrest of the alleged perpetrator in September 2021. It is not reflected in the data presented in this document.
More information here: https://southwest.adl.org/news/adl-applauds-arrest-of-suspect-in-murder-of-el-paso-attorney/
UPDATE: In November 2020, Joseph Angel Alvarez allegedly attacked and killed attorney Georgette Kaufman and wounded her husband in El Paso, Texas. According to police, Alvarez said he was "executing and exterminating the pro-choice Jewish Satan worshippers." In an e-mail manifesto sent by Alvarez on the night of the killing, police say he referred to alleged Satanic rituals at the location where the couple lived and demanded that people "stop all murder of babies." He also reportedly described the victims as "pro-choice" people and said they were members of the "Jewish Satanist Party."
Incidents occurred in 47 states as well as the District of Columbia. The states with the highest number of incidents were New York (336), New Jersey (295), California (289), Florida (127) and Pennsylvania (101). Combined, these states account for 57% of the total incidents.
Incidents were highest in January (270), February (195) and April (185); and were lowest in December (135). As usual, incidents dropped off slightly in summer months, but remained at an average of 155 incidents per month with the beginning of the stay-at-home measures in March and April to safeguard from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Themes and Trends
The Impact of COVID-19 on Antisemitic Incidents
The COVID-19 pandemic affected nearly every facet of our lives. The number of antisemitic incidents was impacted by stay-at-home measures that included K-12 and university campus closures, the lack of daily commutes and the closure of synagogues. We do not know yet whether the pandemic – including factors that could point in different directions, such as the decrease of potential opportunities for antisemitic incidents caused by the enormous decrease in in-person gatherings and open facilities, any increase on online incidents due to so much of life becoming virtual, or the surge of antisemitic conspiracy theories related to the pandemic -- will lead to longer-term changes in the rate of incidents.
In 2020, we saw situations at both the regional and local levels in which Jews were blamed for the spread of the virus. This led to expressions of hostility and antisemitism on social media and, in some cases, real-world harassment of Jews, but we have not identified cases where we can directly link specific instances of violent antisemitism to conspiracy theories or scapegoating surrounding the COVID-19 virus.
The 2020 data show a dramatic decrease in the number of antisemitic incidents at non-Jewish schools and universities, and we expect that as campus life returns to normal, the rates of antisemitic incidents in those locations will likely revert to something closer to the numbers seen in previous years. The 2020 data does not indicate a dramatic shift in incident reports in other types of locations.
But the pandemic did give rise to a new form of harassment in the form of so-called Zoombombings, in which bad actors disrupted webinars with antisemitic messages and images. In 2020 ADL recorded 196 Zoombombings, including 114 which directly targeted religious, educational, or cultural webinars conducted by Jewish institutions, including synagogues and schools. The remaining 82 Zoombombings targeted classes at K-12 schools, campus online lectures, and private events. Some of these antisemitic Zoombombings were accompanied by racist and pornographic imagery.
Sometimes the perpetrators of Zoombombings were hardcore antisemites or white supremacists, but most incidents appear to have been conducted by individuals without a history of notable antisemitism.
More examples of Zoombombings may be found in subsequent sections of this report.
In 2020, there were 31 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. Five of the assaults were perpetrated with a potentially deadly weapon such as a knife or vehicle. The rest consisted of chokings, punches and the throwing of small objects.
Nearly half of the assaults nationwide took place in the five boroughs of New York City, including 11 in Brooklyn and one in Manhattan. Four assaults occurred in California; three took place in the greater Los Angeles metropolitan area, and one assault occurred in San Diego. The remaining assaults were spread across the country, with no other city recording more than one.
Seventy percent of the assaults took place on streets and other public areas. The rest of the assaults were perpetrated in schools, homes and businesses. Two occurred outside synagogues.
A total of 41 individuals were directly targeted during the assaults in 2020. (In some cases, there were bystanders or passersby who are not included in the Audit as they were not directly targeted.) This is a 57% decrease over the 95 victims of assault in 2019. There were 59 victims in 2018.
In 2020, there were no mass violent attacks perpetrated against the Jewish community.
Examples of antisemitic assaults recorded in 2020 include:
- A rabbi standing in the driveway outside the Chabad House at Yale in March when two teenagers approached him and said, "Give us everything you have, you fucking Jew." When the rabbi resisted, the teens assaulted him and stole his car.
- In December, a Jewish man was targeted outside the Chabad of the Bluegrass near the University of Kentucky; a driver ran over his leg while yelling antisemitic slurs.
- In November in Brooklyn, a Jewish man was assaulted by a passerby on the street who, after hitting the man, said, "I got a chance to slap a Jew."
- In January, a Jewish woman in Los Angeles was called a "Jew bitch" and had eggs thrown at her by a passerby on the street.
Known extremist groups or individuals inspired by extremist ideology were responsible for 331 incidents in 2020, up from 270 incidents in 2019. This represents 16% of the total number of incidents in 2020.
Of the 331 incidents attributable to hate groups or extremists, 277 took the form of antisemitic fliers, banners, stickers or written messages. Twenty known groups or individuals were responsible for these incidents. The most frequent perpetrators were members of the New Jersey European Heritage Association (110 incidents), FolksFront (44) and Hundred Handers (25). Unknown groups or individuals promoting white supremacist ideology were responsible for 24 incidents.
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. In the wake of protests over police brutality against Black Americans and the various Black Lives Matter movement protests throughout the summer of 2020, NJEHA responded with antisemitic and conspiratorial propaganda intended to engender fear of the racial justice movement and its participants.
NJEHA often distributes explicitly white supremacist propaganda with messages targeting various groups, including Jewish people, Black people and immigrants. Some of its 2020 propaganda read: “Antifa is a Jewish communist militia,” “Black Crimes Matter” and “Reject White Guilt.” References to the COVID-19 pandemic also appeared in NJEHA’s propaganda, with phrases like “Stop Corona Virus, Deport All Illegal aliens, Close the Borders, Stop Immigration Now,” “Globalism is the virus” and “(((Media))) is the virus.” The last two target Jewish people; the word “globalism” evokes antisemitic tropes and (((___))) can be used as an antisemitic symbol.
NJEHA propaganda is often virulently antisemitic. In addition to the antisemitic messages listed above, other propaganda from NJEHA reads, “Small HATS BIG problems” alongside the image of a kippah, the traditional Jewish head covering. Additional propaganda reads, “America is under occupation” with the text overlaying a Star of David.
FolksFront, a neo-Nazi group, often distributed fliers that included images of swastikas and antisemitic messaging. One flier reads, “Break debt slavery” and features a man breaking his chained hands, which have been locked together by a Star of David. Another flier reads, “Hitler is right” alongside an image of Adolf Hitler. In another example, which says, "Love Not Hate," the letter “O” in “love” is replaced with a swastika, and the letter “A” in “hate” is replaced with a Star of David.
Other Extremist Activity
The remaining 54 incidents of extremist activity included propaganda distribution, Zoombombings and several small protests outside Jewish and pro-Israel institutions.
One source of provocations was the Goyim Defense League, a loose network of individuals connected by their virulent antisemitism. It is a small group led by Jon Minadeo II of Petaluma, California. GDL attracts a range of antisemites and white supremacists who are motivated and united by their hatred of Jews. The most zealous GDL actors are in California, Colorado, Florida and New York. They work alone, in small local cliques and occasionally travel across the country to work together in larger teams.
GDL’s overarching goal is to vilify Jews and spread antisemitic myths and conspiracy theories. This includes frequent references to Jews having undue power through their “control” of major institutions such as media networks, the economy or the government, or disparaging Jews as degenerates who molest children and advocate for pornography, abortion and homosexuality. GDL maintains that the Holocaust is a Jewish lie, and accounts of the Holocaust are merely propaganda or lies generated by Jews for their own benefit. Similarly, the GDL says that Jews were responsible for the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and, like the New Jersey European Heritage Association, claim that Israel intentionally targeted a U.S. warship during the height of the 1967 Six-Day War.
GDL promotes their conspiracies by engaging in a range of antisemitic stunts to troll or otherwise harass Jews, and distributes propaganda including fliers, stickers and banners.
Additionally, ADL was aware of five Zoombombing incidents perpetrated by known extremists including Andrew Auernheimer, AKA “weev,” who is a known white supremacist and hacker with a history of exploiting technology in order to gain attention. In these incidents, participants reported Auernheimer joined the Zoom calls and pulled his shirt collar down to reveal a swastika tattoo on his chest.
In 2020 there were 161 antisemitic incidents reported in non-Jewish K-12 schools, a decrease of 61% from the 411 incidents reported in 2019. Of the 161 incidents in 2020, 92 were incidents of harassment, 68 were incidents of vandalism and there was one incident of assault.
In January and February 2020, reports of antisemitic incidents in K-12 schools were higher than January and February of the previous year. Incidents declined sharply in March and April and remained at low numbers for the remainder of 2020. This dramatic decline is likely due to the nationwide school closures and implementation of online learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 92 incidents of harassment in K-12 schools represents a 49% decrease from the 184 incidents of harassment in 2019. Of these 92 incidents of harassment, 22 took the form of Zoombombings, in which classroom sessions, school district meetings and school club meetings were disrupted by outside actors who displayed swastikas or antisemitic language.
Examples of Zoombombing incidents targeting K-12 schools included:
- A high school teacher in Boston reported that her virtual class was disrupted by an unknown participant who harassed the teacher with messages that read, “Burn like a Jew” and “transgender looking ass.” (April)
- In New York City, a virtual class was disrupted by an unknown individual who hacked a student's account and messaged the class, "KILL ALL JEWS, GAS THEM ALL." (October 2020)
- In Washington, DC a virtual staff meeting of teachers at a middle school was disrupted by an unknown participant who displayed a swastika on the screen and used the n-word. (October 2020)
Fifty-nine of the 68 vandalism incidents (87%) included an image of a swastika.
Given the insidious nature of 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 2020 there were 128 antisemitic incidents on American college and university campuses, a decrease of 32% from 186 reported incidents in 2019.
Of the 128 campus incidents, 71 were incidents of harassment and 57 were incidents of vandalism. As in 2019, there were no reported incidents of assault. Approximately 22% of the incidents on campuses were related to the distribution of antisemitic white supremacist propaganda by groups or individuals. Of the 57 incidents of vandalism, 41 incidents included a swastika.
Thirty-one, or 24%, of the 128 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.
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 “Fuck Jews,” 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 targeted by 327 antisemitic incidents in 2020. This is an increase of 40% from the 234 incidents reported in 2019. Of these, 212 specifically targeted synagogues.
Of the 327 incidents targeting Jewish institutions, 264 were incidents of harassment, 61 were incidents of vandalism and two were incidents of assault. Of the 264 incidents of harassment, 114 were Zoombombings.
In response to the pandemic, synagogues adapted their programming for virtual participation. Many synagogues across the country held daily prayer services, classes, celebrations and other communal programming online via videoconferencing platforms, including Zoom. But these platforms quickly revealed security vulnerabilities and many individuals took it upon themselves to access these events and perpetuate hate and antisemitism by harassing participants. Examples of Zoombombing include:
- A synagogue’s virtual Shabbat service was disrupted by an unknown participant who drew swastikas on the shared screen which featured a prayer book. (April 2020)
- A synagogue’s online Passover seder was disrupted by an unknown individual who wrote to participants in the Zoom’s chat function, “HEIL HITLER YOU FILTHY KIKES. THE BLOOD OF CHRIST IS ON YOUR HANDS. YOU ARE CURSED FOR HIS MURDER.” The intruder also displayed a swastika tattoo on his chest. (April 2020)
- A synagogue's virtual Torah study class was disrupted by an unknown participant who drew swastikas and vulgar images on the screen and wrote, "Kill Jews" multiple times in the chat function. (July 2020)
The two assaults that occurred at Jewish institutions took place outside the Chabad centers in Lexington, KY and New Haven, CT.
Thirty-four of the 327 incidents targeting Jewish institutions were perpetrated by extremists. All but one took the form of harassment, including white supremacist flierings or anti-Israel extremist protests. One was an act of vandalism.
Jewish graves and/or cemeteries were desecrated 11 times in 2020, up from six in 2019. The desecration of Jewish headstones is a long-standing act of antisemitism that has been employed for centuries by those looking to scare, victimize and offend Jews.
- Approximately 30 headstones in two small Jewish cemeteries were vandalized and toppled over. (January 2020, Hartford, CT)
- Swastikas and racist content were found on a storage shed at Shawsheen Cemetery. The cemetery is not Jewish. (April 2020, Bedford, MA)
- Headstones in a Jewish cemetery were vandalized with graffiti that referenced Jesus. (April 2020, Beaufort, SC)
- A Holocaust memorial at Santa Rosa Memorial Park cemetery was found toppled over and in pieces. (June 2020, Santa Rosa, CA)
- Swastika vandalism was found spray-painted outside a Jewish cemetery. (June 2020, New Orleans, LA)
- The pavement at the entrance to a Jewish cemetery was vandalized with spray-paint. (August 2020, Traverse City, MI)
- Sir Moses Montefiore Jewish Cemetery was vandalized with graffiti. (August 2020, Henrico, VA)
- Two memorial benches at Tifereth Israel Cemetery were destroyed. (September 2020, Peabody, MA)
- Headstones in a Jewish cemetery appeared to have been vandalized and knocked over. (October 2020, Staten Island, NY)
- Multiple headstones at Ahavas Israel, a Jewish cemetery, were vandalized with spray-painted graffiti that read, "TRUMP" and "MAGA." (November 2020, Grand Rapids, MI)
- Vandalism that included a drawing of a swastika and the word "Jewish" was found at Lansing Avenue Jewish Cemetery. (November 2020, Cleveland, OH)
Anti-Zionist / Anti-Israel Incidents
The Audit includes as antisemitic incidents reports of anti-Zionist and Anti-Israel harassment, vandalism or assault that are characterized by anti-Jewish animus -- such as those that incorporate established anti-Jewish references, accusations and/or conspiracy theories, or that demonize Jews as a group for support of Israel. In 2020, 178 antisemitic incidents referenced Israel or Zionism. Jewish students on college and university campuses experienced animus expressed by their peers on the subject of Israel and perpetuated by anti-Israel groups such as Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and Jewish Voice for Peace. At the University of Illinois at Chicago, SJP shared a post on Instagram calling on students to "start Zionist shaming," and suggested taunting Jewish students with messages such as, "Go back to Brooklyn" and "Steal anyone's land today?"
On Facebook, SJP at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, posted a survey advocating for an anti-Zionist student group on campus. In their post they wrote that "as Zionists," pro-Israel students "actively advocate for white supremacy and racism, effectively exlcuding [sic] them from all anti-racist organizing.” They further indicated that "Zionists set the precedent in suppressing Palestine organizing," which "other white supremacists have adopted similar tactics to suppress the Black Lives Matter movement, anti-ICE movements, and so much more.”
At Pomona College in California, the senior class president shared an antisemitic post on her Instagram story attacking Jews writing that Zionists and Jewish students who participate in Birthright Israel trips are "WW2-worshiping bitches."
The Harvard College Palestine Solidarity Committee posted on its Instagram account that "Zionism is unquestionably a racist, sectarian, exclusionary, Jewish-supremacist political ideology" and described Zionism as a "genocidal and ethnocidal political ideology."
Of the 178 anti-Zionist/anti-Israel-related incidents, 59 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 entreating people 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.
Anti-Israel extremist group Witness for Peace (WFP) continued its 2019 protests in 2020, holding nearly 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 convenes these protests because 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. On college and university campuses, Jewish students and organizations were targeted for this reason.
- At Florida Atlantic University, the words, “Free Palestine” and “Fuck Hillel” were found written side-by-side in a campus bathroom. (February 2020)
- At UMass Amherst, the Hillel campus building was vandalized with graffiti that read “Palestine” in Arabic. (April 2020)
- The Hillel at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, was defaced with spray-painted graffiti that read: “Free Palestine.” (July 2020)
Other incidents promoted conspiracies about Jews, Israel and Zionists. During a webinar at San Francisco State University honoring Malcolm X, one of the panelists made an antisemitic comment by blaming the "Jewish control of the media" as the reason why "Americans don't really know anything about Palestine."
The Audit of Antisemitic 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 antisemitism.
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 reasonable person could plausibly conclude that they were being victimized due to their Jewish identity. Vandalism against Jewish religious institutions or cemeteries may also be included. The appearance of swastikas, which are generally interpreted by Jews to be symbols of antisemitic hatred, are also included. However, swastikas are not included in circumstances when they appear to be targeting a different minority group. Additionally, the use of a swastika as a means of political protest is also not included. In 2020, many Americans utilized the swastika, as well as references to Hitler and Nazi-era policies as a comparison to COVID-19 lockdown measures, mask mandates, etc. Americans similarly used these references as a way to criticize politicians.
Although some incidents are hate crimes, the Audit includes non-criminal acts that rise to the level of an antisemitic incident as we define it above. ADL carefully examines the credibility of all incidents, including obtaining independent verification when possible.
The Audit excludes the following types of incidents:
- 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” 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 supremacy or other hateful ideologies, unless those expressions include overt antisemitic elements.
The Audit of Antisemitic Incidents includes cases where individuals or groups were harassed online by being sent antisemitic content in direct messages, on listservs or in social media settings where they would have the reasonable expectation to not be subjected to antisemitism. The Audit does not attempt to assess the total amount of antisemitism online.
ADL is 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. We have also included cases of picketing of Jewish religious or cultural institutions for their purported support for Israel.
The 2020 Audit of Antisemitic Incidents documents alarmingly high levels of antisemitism in the United States, which require a concerted whole-of-society response. With regard to potential actions in the policy arena in particular, ADL is sharing a broad array of recommendations with U.S. government officials, including the following:
1. Speak out against antisemitism and all forms of hate.
Public officials and civic leaders — from the President, to governors, attorneys general, mayors, other civic leaders and law enforcement authorities — should use their bully pulpits to speak out against antisemitism and all forms of hate and extremism.
2. Fund protections for communal institutions.
Federal, state and local authorities should provide funding for security hardening and enhancements for at-risk houses of worship, schools, community centers and other non-profit institutions. At a time of increased attention to white supremacy, antisemitism, extremist and hate-motivated violence, the federal government and states should significantly increase the Non-Profit Security Grant program funding and institutional security training and outreach.
The Non-Profit Security Grant Program (NSGP) provides non-profits with the capacity to increase their defense against these threats, including physical security and cybersecurity capacity and coordination. Congress appropriated $180 million for the Non-Profit Security Grant Program for FY 2021. Unfortunately, despite a generous increase in the NSGP program in recent years, the need continues to be greater than the resources provided. ADL requests $360 million in federal appropriations to help keep communities safe.
Additionally, the federal government should invest in the Justice Department’s Community Relations Services to help build trust, engage communities, and support victims. CRS has a unique and important role to play in complementing the Justice Department’s law enforcement activities, particularly when those activities involve members of vulnerable and marginalized communities. CRS is charged with pursuing justice and reconciliation throughout all of the States and territories, by engaging crime victims, government agencies, civil rights groups and community leaders in healing and conflict resolution. CRS concentrates on developing mutual understanding in communities most challenged by tension and helps them develop local capacity and tools to prevent hate crimes from reoccurring. ADL suggests increasing funding to $40 million in Fiscal Year 2022
3. Promote education on hate crimes for law enforcement officials.
While hate crimes are only one type of incident catalogued by the Audit, albeit one of the most egregious, law enforcement’s education about such attacks, and its reporting of them is woefully lacking. The FBI’s most recent release of annual Hate Crime Statistics Act (HCSA) data for 2019 revealed a harrowing trend of increasing hate crimes being reported in the United States, even as fewer law enforcement agencies provided data to the FBI. The increase in reported hate crimes came despite the fact that in 2019, for the second straight year, the number of law enforcement agencies providing data to the FBI declined.
When one individual is targeted by a hate crime, it hurts the whole community, and leaves people feeling vulnerable and afraid. That is the nature of a hate crime -- it is intended and has the effect of terrorizing and impacting a larger community that shares certain of the identity characteristics that marked the individual target and motivated the attack. The federal government’s leadership is indispensable to the critical task of improving effectiveness at tracking, mitigating the harms caused by and ultimately, preventing destructive bias-motivated aggression.
Governments should provide law enforcement officials with the tools and guidance they need to prevent and effectively identify, investigate and respond to hate crimes, while providing trauma-informed comfort and assistance to individual victims and community members. Over time the manifestations of particular antisemitic conspiracies and hate can evolve, and it’s important that law enforcement have access to ongoing education and expertise in order to track such evolutions. Law enforcement also should be educated in community policing best practices. When hate crimes do occur, law enforcement officials must be prepared to take prompt, strong action to investigate every incident – and to hold perpetrators accountable to the full extent of the law. Additionally, law enforcement agencies should use data from the FBI, Department of Education and NGOs such ADL and Stop AAPI Hate to anticipate where hate incidents are most likely to occur and to proactively contact community members and institutions to strengthen relationships and collaboration.
4. Improve hate crime laws and data collection.
Fighting hate crime is a critical task, especially now that antisemitism, anti-Asian-American violence, and other forms of racism and bigotry are at unusually high levels. The FBI’s most recent Hate Crime Statistics Act (HCSA) report revealed that 2019 was the deadliest year on record with 51 hate crime murders – a 113-percent increase over the previous record of 24 set in 2018. Total hate crime incidents rose to 7,314, marking the fourth increase in the past five years. Race-based hate crimes remained the most common type of hate crime, as has been the case every year since the FBI began reporting hate crime data nearly three decades ago; of these, the largest number of crimes targeted Black victims. After declining in 2018, religion-based hate crimes increased by 7 percent, with 63 percent of the total number of reported religion-based hate crimes directed at Jews and Jewish institutions. Anti-Hispanic hate crimes rose nearly 9 percent, the fourth straight year of escalating numbers. This is a trend not unrelated to the escalation of anti-immigrant rhetoric, bigotry, and dehumanization in the public discourse. In addition, after a 41-percent increase in 2018, hate crimes targeting individuals based on gender identity rose another 18 percent in 2019.
As disturbing as these statistics are, they only tell us about a small fraction of all hate crimes. Many law enforcement agencies do not participate meaningfully in reporting pursuant to the Hate Crime Statistics Act. In 2019, for the second straight year, the number of law enforcement agencies providing data to the FBI declined. In addition, in 2019, 86 percent of participating agencies did not report a single hate crime to the FBI, including at least 71 cities with populations over 100,000. Large gaps in data about hate-motivated attacks, along with factors like mistrust between affected communities and police and disincentives to prosecute infractions as hate crimes, limit the effectiveness of civil society and law enforcement actors who are working to eliminate hate crime. Significant changes and supportive efforts, up to and including reporting mandates, are necessary to involve all of society in the critical task of combating hate.
Congress should give DOJ the tools it needs to do this work by enacting the Jabara-Heyer NO HATE Act (H.R. 2382), which would ensure that the Department of Justice actively supports law enforcement agencies in strengthening their practices and capacity to investigate and report on hate crimes and evaluates the benefits of more comprehensive hate crime data. While we work toward passage of the NO HATE Act itself, Congress can advance its goals by requesting an accounting from the Attorney General of law enforcement agencies’ hate crime reporting practices, and by directing State and local law enforcement assistance to programs and efforts that improve hate crime investigation, record-keeping and reporting.
5. Promote anti-bias, bullying prevention, civics education, and Holocaust and genocide education programs in elementary and secondary schools.
Eliminating antisemitism and other forms of bigotry requires government as well as civil society leadership to promote anti-bias, anti-hate, and civics education programs in our nation’s schools. Especially in these divided and polarized times, every elementary and secondary school should promote an inclusive school climate and activities that celebrate our nation’s diversity. One critical aspect of that effort is the need to teach the universal lessons of the Holocaust and other instances of genocide. Studies have shown that this can provide an effective means of combating identity-based hate and bigotry. Every state should mandate teaching about the Holocaust. Also, the Department of Education should ensure that guidance prompts local and state school systems to report school-based antisemitic and other bias-motivated incidents, including those perpetrated by someone other than a teacher or student, through the Civil Rights Data Collection program.
6. Report antisemitic incidents to ADL.
To our own community and to our allies, we say: there are no trivial acts of antisemitism -- just as there are no trivial acts of other forms of racism, hate and bigotry. That does not mean that responses should be uniform; they should be tailored to the circumstances, seriousness of the incident, age of the perpetrators, and so forth. But all need to be reported and responded to.
We at ADL want to know about every single incident that occurs – and every incident must be responded to appropriately. It is impossible to respond effectively to a problem in terms of education, healing, outreach to targets or penalties against perpetrators unless we know about it. If we expect law enforcement officials and community members to take these incidents seriously, we must take them seriously. They should be reported both to ADL and to the police.
7. Government Must Fight Antisemitism by Extremists.
On January 6, 2021 we watched as an insurrection fueled by violent conspiracy theories, meritless accusations of electoral fraud, and white supremacy gripped the nation and attacked our democracy. Unfortunately, this act of domestic terrorism was not a surprise; it is a threat ADL has been warning about for many years - one we had warned law enforcement about once this specific threat became clear, even before the tragic events unfolded.
In its aftermath, ADL created the PROTECT Plan - a comprehensive, bipartisan approach to mitigate the threat of domestic terrorism while protecting civil rights and liberties. Parts of this strategy can be pursued via appropriations: to prioritize the domestic terrorism threa - which is overwhelmingly from rightwing extremists and in particular white supremacists at this time --t, resource according to that threat, provide law enforcement and the military with the tools needed to address extremist movements externally and extremists within their ranks, ensure that social media companies are more accountable for dangerous content, and tackle the transnational dimensions of this threat head-on. Together, these steps would have a significant impact on preventing and countering antisemitism by extremists.
8. Governments Must Address Online Antisemitism, Hate and Harassment.
The government has an important role in reducing online antisemitism, hate and harassment. Eighty percent of Americans agree there should be more police training and resources to help people with online hate and harassment. And an overwhelming majority of Americans agree that laws should be strengthened to hold perpetrators of online hate accountable for their conduct (81%). Government can address online hate and harassment through legislation, training, and research.
ADL’s REPAIR Plan lays out clear strategies to decrease online hate, including the below:
9. Prioritize regulations and reform
Platforms play an active role by providing the means for transmitting hateful content and, more passively, enabling the incitement of violence, political polarization, spreading of conspiracies and facilitation of discrimination and harassment. Unlike traditional publishers, technology companies are largely shielded from legal liability due to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act (CDA 230). There is a lack of other legislative or regulatory requirements even when companies’ products, actions or omissions may aid and abet egregious civil rights abuses and criminal activity. Oversight and independent verification of the claims technology companies make in their transparency reports and related communications are not in place because there are no independent audits of their internal systems.
Governments must carefully reform, not eliminate, CDA 230 to hold social media platforms accountable for their role in fomenting hate. Reform must prioritize both civil rights and civil liberties. Free speech can be protected while taking care not to cement Big Tech’s monopolistic power by making it too costly for all but the largest platforms to ward off frivolous lawsuits and trolls. Many advocates and legislators have focused on reforming CDA 230 in search of a nonexistent one-stop solution, but it is important to acknowledge that ratcheting back CDA 230 is a single step in a much larger process. Thus, the government must also pass laws and undertake other approaches that require regular reporting, increased transparency and independent audits regarding content moderation, algorithms and engagement features.
10. Strengthen laws against perpetrators of online hate
Antisemitism, hate and harassment exist both on the ground and in online spaces, but our laws have not kept up. Many forms of severe online misconduct are inadequately covered by cybercrime, harassment, stalking and hate crime laws currently on the books. State and federal lawmakers have an opportunity to lead the fight against online hate and harassment by increasing protections for targets and penalizing perpetrators of online abuse. Legislators can make sure constitutional and comprehensive laws cover cybercrimes such as doxing, swatting, cyberstalking, cyberharassment, non-consensual distribution of intimate imagery, video-teleconferencing, and unlawful and deceptive synthetic media (sometimes called “deep fakes”). One way to achieve this is by improving and passing the Online Safety Modernization Act at the federal level. Appropriations are also necessary, as legislatures and executive branches must resource to the threat posed by white supremacists and others who target the Jewish community.
11. Improve education of law enforcement
Law enforcement is a crucial responder to online hate and harassment, especially when users feel they are in imminent danger. Increasing training and resources for agencies is essential to ensure law enforcement personnel can better help people who have been targeted. Additionally, better training and resources can support more effective investigations and prosecutions for these types of cases. Finally, the training and resources should also include ways in which law enforcement can refer people to non-legal support in the event that online harassment cannot be addressed through legal remedies.
12. Commission research on tools and services to mitigate online hate
Users, especially those who have been or are likely to be targeted, rely on private technology companies to provide them with tools and services to defend themselves from online hate and harassment. Congress should commission research that summarizes and evaluates platforms’ available tools to their users to protect themselves. The review process should also assess users’ needs and include a gap analysis of available tools and services.
13. Investigate the impact of product designs and implementations
Much of the emphasis has been on the role of platform policy in addressing hate and harassment on digital social platforms, but government actors do not have a solid understanding of the role of product design. Government agencies must support research into how product design and implementation play a role in amplifying and encouraging the spread of hate, harassment, and extremism and making the content and behavior involved in these activities accessible to the public. Governments should also commission a third-party audit of product systems related to product design as a means to hold technology companies accountable in terms of how or whether they are implementing anti-hate by design to address online abuse.
For Technology Platforms
Along with this Audit, our findings from the 2021 Online Hate and Harassment Report show that the vast majority of the American public — across demographics, political ideology and experience with online harassment — want both government and private technology companies to take more action against online hate and harassment.
There is a consistent demand by users (81% of respondents) for technology companies to do more to counter online hate and harassment. An overwhelming majority of respondents also agree with recommendations for increased user control of their online space (78%), improved tools for reporting or flagging hateful content (78%), increased transparency (77%), and accountability in the form of independent reports (69%).
1. Ensure strong policies against hate
As a baseline, technology companies should ensure that their social media platforms have community guidelines or standards that comprehensively address hateful content and harassing behavior, and clearly define consequences for violations. This should be the standard for all platforms active or launching in 2021 and beyond. While some platforms have comprehensive policies at present, not all do. Platforms that do not have robust policies show indifference to addressing the harms suffered by vulnerable and marginalized communities.
2. Enforce policies equitably and at scale
Technology companies must regularly evaluate how product features and policy enforcement on their social media platforms fuel discrimination, bias and hate and make product/policy improvements based on these evaluations. When something goes wrong on a major social media platform, tech companies blame scale. Millions, even billions, of pieces of content can be uploaded worldwide, shared, viewed and commented upon by millions of viewers in a matter of seconds. This massive scale serves as the justification for “mistakes” in content moderation, even if those mistakes result in violence and death. But scale is not the primary problem—defective policies, bad products and subpar enforcement are. When it comes to enforcement, platforms too often miss something, intentionally refrain from applying the rules for certain users (like elected officials) or have biased algorithms and human moderators who do not equitably apply community guidelines. Companies should also create and maintain diverse teams to mitigate bias when designing consumer products and services, drafting policies, and making content moderation decisions.
3. Design to reduce the influence and impact of hate
Technology companies should put people over profit by redesigning their social media platforms and adjusting their algorithms to reduce the impact of hate and harassment. Currently, most platform algorithms are designed to maximize user engagement to keep users logged on for as long as possible to generate advertising revenue. Too often, those algorithms recommend inflammatory content. Questionable content shared by users who have been flagged multiple times should not appear on news feeds and home pages even if the result is decreased.
4. Expand tools and services for targets of harassment
Given the prevalence of online hate and harassment, technology companies should ensure their social media platforms offer far more services and tools that are both easily accessed and effective for individuals facing or fearing an online attack. Social media platforms should provide effective, expeditious resources and redress for victims of hate and harassment. For example, users should be allowed to flag multiple pieces of content within one report instead of creating a new report for each piece of content. They should be able to block multiple perpetrators of online harassment at once instead of undergoing the laborious process of blocking them individually. IP blocking, preventing users who repeatedly engage in hate and harassment from accessing a platform even if they create a new profile, helps protect victims.
5. Improve transparency and increase oversight
Technology companies must produce regular transparency reports and submit to regularly scheduled external, independent audits so that the public knows the extent of hate and harassment on their platforms. Transparency reports must be expanded to include far more than the small amount of important data about online hate they now include. They should include data from user-generated, identity-based reporting. For example, if users report they were targeted because they were Jewish, that can then be aggregated to become a subjective measure of the scale and nature of antisemitic content on a platform. This metric would be useful to researchers and practitioners developing solutions to these problems. In addition to transparency about policies and content moderation, companies can increase transparency related to their products. At present, technology companies have little to no transparency in terms of how they build, improve and fix the products embedded into their platforms to address hate and harassment. In addition to transparency reports, technology companies should allow third-party audits of their work on content moderation on their platforms. Audits would also allow the public to verify that the company followed through on its stated actions and to assess the effectiveness of company efforts across time.
Antisemitic incidents are an all-too-common reality in our communities.
You can take action against antisemitism with ADL. At a time that can feel isolating, we can still join together to fight hate for good and make a difference in our communities.
5 Ways you can Join ADL in Fighting Hate for Good in your Community
Report an Incident
We can’t do this alone. Because of thousands of people like you 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.
If you have experienced or witnessed an incident of antisemitism, extremism, bias, bigotry or hate, please report it using our incident form. When you hear of an incident happening to a loved one, friend or community member, share with them that they can report the incident to ADL. 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 this is an emergency, please dial 911.
Encourage Antisemitism Education in Your Communities
BINAH, Building Insights to Navigate Antisemitism and Hate, is a digital course developed by ADL in partnership with Everfi, that motivates students to identify as global citizens with respect for all people, regardless of the makeup of their school community. Learn more about BINAH and our other education programs and share these opportunities with schools in your community.
Learn more about fighting antisemitism
ADL has a variety of resources to help you learn more about the root causes of antisemitism and hate and share that information with others.
Join us for Never Is Now: The Summit on Antisemitism and Hate | November 7-9, 2021
This November, thousands of experts, members of the ADL community, business leaders and students will come together virtually for Never Is Now, the world's largest annual summit on antisemitism and hate. Never Is Now is the best way to learn about and discuss contemporary drivers of antisemitism and hate and find out how you can take action in combating bias of all kinds. Watch sessions from 2020 and sign up for updates to ensure you are among the first to hear event details as they become available.
The ADL Lewy Family Institute for Combating Antisemitism
Charles and Mildred Schnurmacher Foundation
Crown Family Philanthropies
David Berg Foundation
The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation
Joyce and Irving Goldman Family Foundation
Lillian and Larry Goodman Foundations
The Marlene Nathan Meyerson Family Foundation
The Nancy K. Silverman Foundation
Nathan Cummings Foundation
New England Revolution Foundation
Zegar Family Foundation