Audit of Antisemitic Incidents 2021
Each year, the ADL (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 2021, ADL tabulated 2,717 antisemitic incidents throughout the United States. This is a 34% increase from the 2,026 incidents tabulated in 2020 and the highest number on record since ADL began tracking antisemitic incidents in 1979.
- Of the 2,717 incidents recorded in 2021, 1,776 were cases of harassment, a 43% increase from 1,242 in 2020, and 853 incidents were cases of vandalism, a 14% increase from 751 in 2020. The 88 incidents of antisemitic assault (a 167% increase from 33 in 2020), involved 131 victims; none of the assaults were deadly.
- In 2021, there were no assaults perpetrated against the Jewish community that resulted in mass causalities. Of the physical assaults against Jewish individuals, the vast majority (77 of 88) were perpetrated without the use of a deadly weapon.
- The surge of incidents in May 2021 coincided with the military conflict between Israel and Hamas. For the entire month, 387 antisemitic incidents were tabulated by ADL, 297 of which occurred between May 10 – the official start of military action – and the end of the month, an increase of 141% over the same period in 2020. Of the 297 incidents, there were 211 cases of harassment, 71 cases of vandalism and 15 assaults.
- In 2021, 345 antisemitic incidents involved references to Israel or Zionism, compared to 178 in 2020. Of 2021’s 345 anti-Zionist/anti-Israel- related incidents, 68 took the form of propaganda efforts by white supremacist groups 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 Jews for their connection – real or assumed – to Israel.
- Incidents in K-12 schools, colleges and universities increased in 2021 but were flat compared to the five-year average. In 2021, ADL logged 331 incidents at non-Jewish K-12 schools (up 106% from 161 in 2020), and 155 incidents at colleges and universities (up 21% from 128 in 2020).
- In 2021, there were 525 logged incidents at Jewish institutions such as synagogues, Jewish community centers, and Jewish schools, an increase of 61% from 327 in 2020. 413 were incidents of harassment, 101 were incidents of vandalism and 11 were incidents of assault. Of the 413 incidents of harassment, 111 were anti-Zionism/anti-Israel-related, 42 were Zoombombings and 24 were extremist-related. Of the 101 incidents of vandalism, 33 involved a swastika and 10 were related to anti-Zionism/Anti-Israel sentiment.
- In 2021, ADL recorded 484 antisemitic incidents attributed to known right-wing extremist groups or individuals inspired by right-wing extremist ideology. This represents 18% of the total number of incidents. White supremacist groups, for example, were responsible for 422 antisemitic propaganda distributions. This is a 52% increase from 277 in 2020. Other extremist activity included incidents instigated by the Goyim Defense League, a loose network of individuals connected by their virulent antisemitism.
- Of the 2,717 incidents included in the 2021 Audit of Antisemitic incidents, 494 were identified through newly established partnerships between ADL and several Jewish organizations, including the Community Security Initiative (CSI), Community Security Service (CSS), Hillel International, Secure Community Network (SCN), Union of Reform Judaism and the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism. This shared reporting represents 18% of the total number of incidents in 2021. Even without the additional reporting from partners, the 2021 Audit numbers would have been the highest recorded by ADL, with 2,223 incidents.
- The complete dataset for antisemitic incidents for 2016-2021 is available on ADL’s H.E.A.T. Map, an interactive online tool that allows users to geographically chart antisemitic incidents and extremist activity nationally and regionally. Some details have been removed from the incident listings to protect victims’ privacy.
In 2021, ADL tabulated 2,717 antisemitic incidents across the United States. This represents a 34% increase from the 2,026 incidents recorded in 2020 and is the highest number on record since ADL began tracking antisemitic incidents in 1979.
Harassment: Of the total, 1,776 incidents were categorized as harassment, defined as cases where one or more Jewish people (or people who were perceived to be Jewish) were harassed verbally (or in writing) with antisemitic conspiracy theories, slurs or stereotypes. Acts of harassment increased 43%, up from 1,242 in 2020.
Vandalism: Another 853 incidents were categorized as vandalism, defined as cases where property was damaged in a manner that incorporated evidence of antisemitic intent or which had an antisemitic impact on Jews. Swastikas, which are generally interpreted by Jews to be symbols of antisemitic hatred, were present in 578 of these incidents. Acts of antisemitic vandalism increased 14% from 751 in 2020.
Assault: A total of 88 incidents were categorized as assault, defined as cases where Jewish people (or people perceived to be Jewish) were targeted with physical violence accompanied by evidence of antisemitic animus. Antisemitic assaults increased 167% from 33 in 2020. Eleven of the assaults in 2021 were perpetrated with deadly weapons. The 88 assaults resulted in 131 victims and no fatalities.
2021 Incidents by State: Incidents occurred in all 50 states as well as the District of Columbia. The states with the highest number of incidents were New York (416), New Jersey (370), California (367), Florida (190), Michigan (112) and Texas (112). Combined, these states account for 58% of the total incidents.
Monthly Comparisons: Incidents in 2021 were highest in May (387), December (275) and November (242) and were lowest in August (165) and January (173). The surge of incidents in May coincides with the military conflict between Israel and Hamas (see below in the “May 2021 Israel-Hamas military conflict” under Themes and Trends). The previous highest month on record was November 2018 (300 incidents), which was the month after the Tree of Life synagogue mass shooting in Pittsburgh, PA. In every month in 2021, except for January and February, ADL counted an increase in incident reporting compared to the previous year.
Of the 2717 incidents included in the 2021 Audit of Antisemitic incidents, 494 were identified through newly established partnerships between ADL and several Jewish organizations, including the Community Security Initiative (CSI), Community Security Service (CSS), Hillel International, Secure Community Network (SCN), Union of Reform Judaism and the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism. This represents 18% of the total number of incidents in 2021. Even without the additional reporting from partners, the numbers in the 2021 Audit would have been the highest recorded in ADL’s history, with 2223 incidents.
Themes and Trends
May 2021 Israel-Hamas Military Conflict
On May 10, 2021, fighting broke out between Israel and Hamas with heightened tensions and violence on the streets of some Israeli cities with large Arab and Jewish populations. By the time a ceasefire was announced on May 21, 13 people had been killed in Israel by then more than 4,000 rocket and missile attacks fired from Gaza, and 248 people had been killed in Gaza, including many children. As the crisis unfolded, there was a surge of antisemitic incidents targeting Jewish communities and individuals in the United States and around the world.
For the entire month of May, 387 antisemitic incidents were tabulated by ADL. The lion’s share of 297 occurred between May 10 – the official start of military action – and the end of the month, an increase of 141% over the same period in 2020 (123). The perpetrators of many of these incidents explicitly referred to the conflict between Israel and Hamas. For example, on May 23 a synagogue received a threatening email that said, “Die fucking jew cockroaches! Israel = racism, apartheid, genocide.” When incidents with explicit references to Israel or Zionism are excluded, the number of incidents still increased by 46% in the 20-day period of May 10-31, 2021, compared to the same period in 2020.
During the period of the conflict and its immediate aftermath (May 10-31, 2021), there were 211 cases of harassment, 71 cases of vandalism, and 15 assaults across the United States. Forty percent of the incidents (117) included explicit references to Israel or Zionism.
The most dramatic year-over-year increase during the period of the conflict and its immediate aftermath was in the assault category, which rose from zero assaults in May 10-31, 2020, to 15 during the same period in May 2021. There is evidence that at least eight of the antisemitic assaults were motivated by anti-Israel/anti-Zionism sentiment. For example, on May 18, patrons at a Los Angeles restaurant were attacked by individuals who arrived in cars carrying Palestinian flags and said, “You should be ashamed of yourselves” after the customers confirmed they were Jewish. The Palestinian supporters pushed one of the victims to the ground and kicked him. Soon after, a brawl erupted, and subsequent news reports indicated the attackers also hurled anti-Jewish slurs. On May 20, in Manhattan, while on his way to a Pro-Israel rally, a Jewish man wearing a yarmulke was attacked by a group of individuals who yelled anti-Jewish and anti-Israel slurs while they punched, kicked, pepper-sprayed and beat him.
Harassment also dramatically increased, from 73 incidents from May 10-31, 2020, to 211 during the same time frame in 2021. About 50% of the harassment cases included references to Israel or Zionism. In some cases, Jewish individuals were accosted with hostile comments. For example, on May 13 in New Orleans, a Jewish high school student wearing a yarmulke was harassed by another student who was advocating for Palestinian rights and told him to “take his dirty Jew hat off.” Additionally, Jewish institutions across the country received harassing anti-Israel/anti-Zionist phone calls and emails. In Colorado, for example, a synagogue received a threatening phone call from an individual who said, "Watch your back. We are coming for you. All of you. You and everyone in the building. The Zionists and the Jews."
Numerous anti-Israel rallies and protests occurred across the U.S. during this period, but most of the 400+ such events between May 11 and May 21 were not characterized by antisemitism and thus are not included in the Audit count. However, some rallies featured slogans or signs that directly linked their opposition to Israel or Zionism to all Jews or incorporated antisemitic tropes. For example, a protestor at a May 12 rally in Chicago held a sign that featured a swastika drawn inside of a Jewish Star of David, with an accompanying message referencing “Nazi Zionist Jews;” and, on May 16, a protester in Miami held a sign that said, “Jesus was Palestinian and you killed him too,” invoking the antisemitic trope of deicide.
Incidents of harassment, vandalism or assault that incorporated anti-Israel and/or anti-Zionism themes are included in the Audit if they also express classic anti-Jewish animus – including anti-Jewish slurs, references, accusations, and/or conspiracy theories – or that demonize Jews as a group for real or perceived support of Israel. Many of the May 2021 incidents are a subset of the anti-Israel/anti-Zionism cases discussed below. In 2021, 345 antisemitic incidents fell into this category. This represents a 94% increase from 178 in 2020.
At times, rhetoric from several community-based anti-Israel and anti-Zionist activists veered into antisemitism. For example, in November a Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) chapter in New York circulated a flier that contained antisemitic caricatures. Also in November, an SJP chapter in Chicago published digital content that depicted Israeli Jews as pigs, including one that depicted the pigs' eyes as dollar signs. In June, a speaker at a protest against police brutality in New York said, “We're going to get rid of the CIA, and the Jews with the kippahs too. From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free." In March, a social media content creator harassed Jewish customers at a Kosher market in Michigan and repeatedly asked them to say "Free Palestine" for no apparent reason other than because they appeared to be Jewish.
Of the 345 anti-Israel/anti-Zionism related incidents, 68 took the form of propaganda efforts by white supremacist groups to foment anti-Israel and antisemitic beliefs. For example, propaganda from the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan was distributed in a residential neighborhood in San Diego that included messages that said, "Democrats: Controlled by Communist Jews! Republicans: Controlled by Zionist Jews! Where does that leave white Americans?" invoking the classic antisemitic trope that Jews have too much power.
Witness for Peace (WFP), an antisemitic and anti-Israel group, continued its weekly protests outside an Ann Arbor, Michigan synagogue throughout 2021 (these protests began in 2003.) WFP members typically hold signs with slogans like, “Israel: No Right to Exist”, “Prof. Victor Lieberman: Heil Hitler!” “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 and Jewish institutions engaged in religious observances for harassment because of their real or assumed support for Israel and hold them responsible for the policies of Israel’s government. Prior to 2021, ADL tabulated these harassment incidents once a month. In 2021 the methodology was updated to more accurately reflect the disruptive and traumatic impact that these weekly violations are having on many Jews in Ann Arbor.
In 2021, there were 88 reported antisemitic assaults in the U.S. Eleven of those assaults were perpetrated with a potentially deadly weapon such as a knife or vehicle. 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.
Fifty-seven percent of the assaults nationwide took place in New York, with the majority reported in the five boroughs of New York City, including 12 in Manhattan and 34 in Brooklyn. Fifteen assaults occurred in California; 14 took place in Los Angeles, and one assault occurred in San Diego. Six assaults occurred in New Jersey, four in Pennsylvania, three in Ohio, two in Massachusetts and two in Washington, D.C. The remaining assaults occurred across the country, with no other state recording more than one.
A total of 131 victims were directly targeted during the assaults in 2021. (This does not include bystanders or passersby who were directly targeted or in danger). This is a 220% increase over the 41 victims of assault in 2020. There were 95 victims in 2019. Assault incidents were highest in May (16) and October (14).
Examples of antisemitic assaults recorded in 2021 include:
- Five Hasidic Jewish men, ranging in age from 11 to 82, were attacked by a driver in a minivan who backed his car into the group. (April 2021, Brooklyn, NY)
- A group of Jewish patrons at a restaurant in Los Angeles were attacked by a group of individuals in cars carrying Palestinian flags and yelling antisemitic slurs. (May 2021, Los Angeles, CA)
- A Jewish man wearing a yarmulke was chased and attacked by a group of anti-Israel protestors in Midtown Manhattan who pushed him into a glass window and yelled, "Fuck you, Zionist!" and "Die, Zionist!" (May 2021, Manhattan, NY)
- Two Orthodox Jewish boys were shot at with a paintball gun in the driveway of their home in Los Angeles. The younger child was hit in the chest with one of the paintballs. (May 2021, Los Angeles, CA)
- A group of three people physically attacked an individual after making antisemitic and pro-Nazi remarks. (July 2021, Brooklyn, NY)
- A Jewish individual was physically assaulted by a man who made comments minimizing the Holocaust and denigrating Jews. (September 2021, Kunkletown, PA)
- An individual yelled "fucking Jew" and threw a glass bottle at a Jewish girl as she was disembarking her school bus. (October 2021, University Heights, OH)
- Three Jewish youth were assaulted, including a visibly Jewish three-year-old who was slapped in the face. (November 2021, Brooklyn, NY)
Known extremist groups or individuals inspired by extremist ideology were responsible for 484 incidents in 2021, up from 332 incidents in 2020. This represents 18% of the total number of incidents in 2021. All of the incidents emerged from adherents of right-wing or white supremacist ideologies. Of the 484 incidents attributed to hate groups or extremists, 422 took the form of antisemitic fliers, banners, stickers or written messages. This is a 52% increase from 277 in 2020. The top distributors of antisemitic propaganda in 2021 were the Folkish Resistance Movement (formerly known as Folksfront) (179), Goyim Defense League (77), New Jersey European Heritage Association (50), and White Lives Matter (27).
The remaining 62 incidents of extremist activity included acts of antisemitic vandalism, bomb threats to Jewish institutions, Zoombombings, and several small protests outside Jewish and pro-Israel institutions. In 2021, ADL documented 27 antisemitic extremist gatherings, parades, picketing events or meetings. This is a 35% increase from 20 such incidents in 2020.
Most Noteworthy Extremist Groups:
Folkish Resistance Movement (FRM)
Folkish Resistance Movement (FRM), formed as Folksfront in early 2019 and rebranded as FRM in late 2021, distributes white supremacist propaganda that often features explicit antisemitism. For example, among the slogans used were “Hitler was right,” an image of a swastika with the words “Smash white guilt,” and a broken Star of David that reads “Break debt slavery” or “Resist Zionism” with a picture of a sword breaking a Star of David. Additionally, FRM’s propaganda often features crossed eiwaz runes fashioned to resemble a swastika along with white supremacy slogans such as “Our blood is our faith, our nation is our race” and “Blood and soil.”
The Goyim Defense League (GDL)
The Goyim Defense League, a network of antisemites that has some crossover participation with the White Lives Matter (WLM) network and other white supremacist groups, was responsible for at least 77 antisemitic propaganda incidents in 2021. Most of GDL’s propaganda distributions occurred during their so-called “Name the Nose” tours, but in December 2021 the group increased their non-tour related propaganda distributions and organized their first nationwide propaganda campaign over the weekend of December 18. GDL has continued monthly propaganda drives into 2022, making dozens of propaganda distributions in at least 17 states. In most cases, the propaganda claimed, “Every single aspect of the Covid agenda is Jewish” or “Every single aspect of the Biden administration is Jewish."
New Jersey European Heritage Association (NJEHA)
New Jersey European Heritage Association distributes explicitly white supremacist propaganda often focused on white victimization or targeting various groups including Jewish people, Black people, immigrants or the LGBTQ community. Some of its 2021 propaganda read, “Why are Jews censoring free speech?” and “Antifa is a Jewish communist militia.” They also distributed propaganda co-opted from the Goyim Defense League, an antisemitic network in which some NJEHA members and associates participate.
White Lives Matter (WLM)
White Lives Matter (WLM) is a network of white supremacists who engage in “pro-white activism” on a particular day each month. WLM promotes a white supremacist worldview, advocating for raising “white racial consciousness.” Some WLM chapters include neo-Nazi members, who sometimes display swastikas or promote neo-Nazi groups during events.
In 2021 there were 331 antisemitic incidents in non-Jewish K-12 schools. Although this is an increase of 106% from the historically low year of 2020 (161 incidents, when most schools were remote due to the COVID pandemic), it is basically flat compared with the five-year average. Of the 331 incidents in 2021, 178 were incidents of harassment, 152 were incidents of vandalism and one was an incident of assault.
The 178 incidents of harassment in K-12 schools represents a 93% increase from the 92 incidents of harassment in 2020. Of the 178 incidents of harassment, 54 incidents included an image of a swastika, 11 were Israel/Zionism related, and 11 were Zoombombings.
School-based harassment incidents in 2021 included one-off incidents such as when one student told another, “I wish Hitler was alive to kill you and the rest of the Jews,” or when a teacher said, “Maybe the Jews deserved to die” while teaching a class on the Holocaust. Harassment incidents included recurrent antisemitic bullying, such as classmates taunting Jewish students with Holocaust jokes and references.
The 152 incidents of antisemitic vandalism in K-12 schools in 2021 represent a 124% increase from the 68 incidents tabulated in 2020. This dramatic change is likely due to the nationwide school closures and implementation of online learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. Of the 152 vandalism incidents recorded, over 90% included the use of a swastika. Vandalism incidents included messages such as “Gas Jews,” “We love Hitler,” Heil Hitler” and “Hitler was right.”
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 school was significantly higher than the data reported in the Audit.
In 2021 there were 155 antisemitic incidents at colleges and universities occurring at over 100 campuses across the country, an increase of 21% from 128 incidents recorded in 2020. Of the 155 campus incidents in 2021, 87 were incidents of harassment, 64 were incidents of vandalism and four were incidents of assault. Over 30% of the incidents on campus included swastikas.
Twenty-four, or 15%, of the 155 campus incidents involved references to Israel or Zionism. More information on the nature of those incidents can be found in the anti-Israel/anti-Zionism section of this report.
The 64 incidents of vandalism on campus represent a 12% increase from the 57 incidents recorded in 2020. Acts of vandalism on campus included the desecration of mezuzot (small ritual items that some Jews affix to the doorpost of their homes) in residence halls, messages of anti-Jewish animus such as “Kike” and “Heil Hitler,” swastika drawings found in academic and residential halls, and images of swastikas accompanying threatening messages targeting Jewish students. Swastikas were used in almost 60% (37) of the 64 incidents of vandalism on campus.
Jewish institutions, including Jewish schools, community centers and synagogues, were targeted by 525 antisemitic incidents in 2021; of those, 327 targeted synagogues. In total, this represents a 61% increase from the 327 incidents recorded in 2020 that targeted Jewish institutions. Of the 525 incidents targeting Jewish Institutions, 413 were incidents of harassment, 101 were incidents of vandalism and 11 were incidents of assault. The 11 assaults took place in eight states: three in New York; two in California; and one each in Colorado, Florida, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
Of the 413 incidents of harassment, 111 were anti-Zionism/anti-Israel-related, 42 were Zoombombings and 24 were right-wing extremist-related. Of the 101 incidents of vandalism, 33 involved a swastika and 10 were related to anti-Zionism/anti-Israel animus. Most acts of vandalism took the form of graffiti, usually with a swastika or other antisemitic message. Other cases involved religious artifacts being tampered with, including mezuzot being torn down or menorahs stolen or vandalized. Twenty-nine of the 525 incidents targeting Jewish Institutions were perpetrated by right-wing extremists. All but five took the form of harassment, including white supremacist fliering.
Jewish graves and/or cemeteries were desecrated six times in 2021, down from 11 in 2020. The desecration of Jewish headstones is a long-standing act of antisemitism that has been employed by those looking to terrorize and offend Jews.
- Swastikas were etched into multiple areas of an archway to the Jewish section of the Palms Memorial Park Gardens Cemetery. (January 2021, Sarasota, FL)
- A retaining wall of the cemetery for Congregation Kneseth Israel was damaged. (January 2021, Washington, D.C.)
- Four Jewish graves were desecrated with swastikas in the Jewish section of the Harbor Lawn/Mt. Olive Memorial Park Cemetery. (April 2021, Costa Mesa, CA)
- A headstone was vandalized with SS bolts and other Nazi imagery at the Bayview-New York Bay Cemetery. (April 2021, Jersey City, NJ)
- Approximately seven headstones at the German Hill Road Jewish Cemeteries were vandalized with swastikas. (July 2021, Washington, D.C.)
- Approximately 50 headstones were knocked down in the Sheffield Cemetery, which is operated by a synagogue. (August 2021, Kansas City, MO)
The ADL Audit of Antisemitic Incidents is comprised of both criminal and non-criminal incidents of harassment, vandalism and assault against individuals and groups as reported to ADL by victims, law enforcement, the media and partner organizations. 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 and/or groups, where either 1) circumstances indicate anti-Jewish animus on the part of the perpetrator, or 2) a reasonable person could plausibly conclude 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 included in the Audit. However, swastikas are not included in circumstances when they appear to be targeting a different minority group. Additionally, swastikas used as a means of political protest are also not included. For example, in 2021, some Americans used swastikas, as well as references to Hitler and Nazi-era politics, in protests against COVID-19 public health measures and mask mandates; those incidents are not generally included in the Audit unless there was other evidence of antisemitic animus. 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 in private venues (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 websites where unmoderated discussion occurs, looking at specific individuals’ social media pages, etc.)
- Instances of discrimination (e.g. a Jewish employee 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 includes cases where individuals or groups were harassed online via antisemitic content in direct messages, on listservs or in social media settings where they would have the reasonable expectation of not being 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 incorporated anti-Jewish references, accusations and/or conspiracy theories, or when American Jews are demonized for their real or perceived support of Israel. ADL also included cases of picketing of Jewish religious or cultural institutions for their purported support for Israel.
In 2021, the Audit began incorporating reports of antisemitic incidents from other Jewish organizations with whom ADL has established partnerships. Those organizations include Community Security Initiative (CSI), Community Security Service (CSS), Hillel International, Secure Community Network (SCN), Union of Reform Judaism and the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism. We thank these organizations for their ongoing efforts to help encourage reporting of antisemitic incidents.
Policy Recommendations For Government
The 2021 Audit of Antisemitic Incidents documents alarmingly high levels of antisemitism in the United States which require a concerted whole-of-government, whole-of-society response. Regarding potential actions in the policy arena in particular, ADL urges government officials to:
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 — must use their bully pulpits to speak out against antisemitism and all forms of hate and extremism. Regardless of its origins - from the far left to the far right and anywhere in between - leaders must call out antisemitism, including anti-Zionist antisemitism, and rally their communities to action.
2. Fund protections for communal institutions.
Federal, state, and local authorities should provide additional funding for security enhancements for at-risk houses of worship, schools, community centers, and other non-profit institutions. At a time of increased attention to extremism and hate-motivated violence, the federal government and states should significantly increase support for 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 must continue to grow to fully fund these grants to ensure that communities can address persistent and growing threats. 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 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.
3. Promote education on hate crimes for law enforcement officials.
While hate crimes are only one type of incident cataloged by the Audit – albeit one of the most egregious – law enforcement’s awareness of 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 2020 revealed a continuing trend of increasing hate crimes being reported in the U.S. under the federal government’s voluntary reporting regime, even as fewer law enforcement agencies provided data to the FBI.
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. Hate crimes are message crimes. Governmental 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 has 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. At the same time, depending upon the nature of the crime, the remorse and willingness of a perpetrator to be educated and otherwise make amends, as well as the willingness of the targets/victims, restorative justice options may also be valuable. 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 data collection.
Fighting hate crimes is a critical task, especially now that antisemitism, anti-Asian-American violence, threats to HBCUs, and other forms of racism and bigotry are at unusually high levels. The FBI’s annual hate crimes report for 2020 reported a 13% increase in hate crimes from the previous year and represented the highest total in almost two decades. A total of 8,263 hate crime incidents were reported, an increase from 7,314 in 2019. Hate crimes targeting the Jewish community made up nearly 55% of all religion-based hate crimes in 2020. 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 2020, for the third straight year, the number of law enforcement agencies providing data on hate crimes to the FBI declined. Furthermore, even among agencies that are in theory participating in the program, far too many report zero hate crimes, raising concerns about the accuracy of the numbers. In 2020, 10 cities with a population over 100,000 did not report and 59 cities with a population over 100,000 reported zero hate crimes. Large gaps in data about hate-motivated attacks, along with factors like mistrust between affected communities and police and disincentives to prosecute 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 took a significant step forward in improving our nation’s response to hate crimes by passing the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act in 2021, which incorporated the Jabara-Heyer NO HATE Act. The new law includes crucial measures to expedite an Attorney General review of hate crimes nationwide and requires the promulgation of guidance to law enforcement agencies regarding best practices for establishing hate crime reporting tools and collecting data on these crimes. It also created new grant programs to provide much-needed resources to establish state-run hate crime hotlines and improve hate crime reporting to the FBI. The Department of Justice has already made strong progress in implementing provisions of this law; however, full implementation of all of the important new grant programs requires that Congress appropriate funds for them. ADL urges Congress to fully appropriate the implementation of the National Incident-Based Reporting System, to make other critical investments to create state-run hate crime reporting hotlines and to conduct training and develop protocols for identifying, analyzing, investigating, and reporting hate crimes.
But passing the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, followed by this year’s Emmet Till Antilynching Act making lynching a federal hate crime, should not represent the end of Congressional efforts to address hate crimes. There remains significant work to do to implement a comprehensive and data-informed approach to this devastating problem. One key weakness remaining in the current hate crime data collection program is that it relies on voluntary participation by state and local law enforcement. Congress and the Department of Justice must evaluate options for making hate crime reporting mandatory by all law enforcement agencies, such as by leveraging federal criminal justice grants provided to state and local law enforcement agencies.
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-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. Protect Democracy.
The incidents described in this Audit, and the antisemitism that motivates them, are also corrosive of our democracy. Like other forms of identity-based hatred, antisemitic acts intimidate entire communities, and further divide and polarize our polity. Antisemitism dusts off and raises up old tropes and conspiracy theories about Jews as the cause of societal problems and then substitutes acts of hatred and discrimination against a dehumanized group rather than seeking to address problems with real solutions. This is a tried-and-true tool of extremists, who elevate malevolent conspiracies to erode faith in democratic processes and institutions in favor of more authoritarian and often racially, ethnically or religiously homogeneous regimes.
Policymakers at all levels of government must be vigilant about pushing back against efforts to undermine core democratic institutions, particularly efforts designed to interfere with elections and impede the ability of all voters to cast their ballots without fear. Congress should pass the Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act, which would provide crucial protections against racially discriminatory voting laws and help ensure the free and fair administration of elections.
ADL has inaugurated a new organizational priority of Protecting Democracy in response to the threat identity-based hatred and extremism poses to our democratic institutions, processes and norms.
7. Fight Extremism.
Whether the attack at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, the Chabad in Poway, or any number of domestic terrorist incidents in which antisemitism plays a role — such as the January 6th attack on the Capitol — there is an acute threat of antisemitic terrorism and myriad forms of terrorism that integrate antisemitism across ideologies. We must protect the Jewish community from these threats and counter the movements that produce them.
ADL has created the PROTECT Plan — a comprehensive, bipartisan approach to mitigate the threat of domestic terrorism while protecting civil rights and liberties. The strategic framework includes suggestions related to prioritizing the domestic terrorism threat — which is overwhelmingly from right-wing extremists and in particular white supremacists at this time — providing resources according to that threat, providing law enforcement and the military with the tools needed to address 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. Address Online Antisemitism.
The government has an important role in reducing online hate, harassment and extremism fueled by antisemitism. 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%).
ADL has created the REPAIR Plan - a comprehensive approach to decrease online hate, harassment and extremism, including that fueled by antisemitism, and push it back to the fringes of the digital world. In order to comprehensively repair our internet ecosystem, this strategic plan encourages policymakers to:
- Reorient and Resource Government — to ensure a coordinated, whole of government approach to combat online hate, harassment, and extremism at home and abroad.
- Expose Platform Manipulation — through transparency mandates and independent research;
- Put People Over Profit — by disrupting big tech’s business model, including banning surveillance advertising;
- Advocate for Targets of Online Hate and Harassment — by supporting targets of doxing, swatting, cyberharassment and other forms of digital abuse;
- Interrupt Disinformation — tackle online hate and extremism to restore trust in our institutions and reverse democratic backsliding
- Regulate Platforms — while respecting free speech and promoting competition, advance thoughtful and targeted legislation to end near total immunity for social media companies.
Policy Recommendations For Technology Platforms
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.
In 2022, there is no excuse for any technology company that operates a digital social platform to not have public-facing community guidelines or standards that comprehensively address hateful content and harassing behavior, and clearly define consequences for violations. While some platforms have comprehensive policies at present, not all do. Platforms that do not have robust public-facing 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 by centering the experience of communities targeted by 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. To address this, tech companies should center the experiences of communities most often targeted by hate in the creation and improvement of their platforms. ADL has modeled this in the development of our Online Hate Index antisemitism machine learning classifier. If a nonprofit can create an effective tool to detect online antisemitism by centering the perspective and experience of Jewish volunteers in its development, then technology companies with their vast resources have no excuse not to center the most impacted communities in the technologies they develop.
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. More specific suggestions on anti-hate by design principles that can be implemented by tech companies as they design or redesign their platforms can be found in ADL’s Social Pattern Library.
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. Platforms should also provide transparency regarding non-removal related content moderation actions they take. For example, if a platform decides not to remove a category of antisemitic or hateful content but instead de-amplify the degree to which content in that category can be shared or engaged with, they should report on the number of those actions taken alongside removals. 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.
We all have a powerful tool to respond to antisemitism: our voice.
Report an Antisemitic, Bias or Discriminatory Incident
Every year our regional offices respond to thousands of incidents of antisemitism and hate, helping individuals and communities to heal and create change. 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.
Tell Congress: Secure our Synagogues and Schools
Religious institutions — synagogues, schools, community centers — must make significant investments in measures like security guards and emergency training — despite stretched budgets — to keep our communities safe. Please urge your Members of Congress to do more to protect our communities and increase funding for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program to a minimum of $360 million.
Learn More about Antisemitism and Extremism
Watch ADL’s new Antisemitism Uncovered Video Series
Understand the myths behind the most common antisemitic tropes and how to combat them by watching our new seven-video series, an accompaniment to Antisemitism Uncovered: A Guide to Old Myths in a New Era.
Join us for Never Is Now | November 10, 2022 | NYC
In the midst of increasing incidents of hate across the world, now is the time to unite and act. Join us at ADL’s Never Is Now, the world’s largest annual summit on antisemitism and hate. Tackle crucial conversations, engage with extraordinary experts, leaders and visionaries and be inspired to take immediate action that will create lasting change in your community and beyond. Add your voice to the conversation this November at Never Is Now at the Javits Center in New York City. Register today!
Address Antisemitism in the Workplace
Workplace culture plays a vital role in shaping conversations around diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI). ADL offers antisemitism education and programs that are tailored to a workforce’s needs and context. View our resources on standing up against antisemitism in the workplace, reviewing HR policies on religious accommodation, supporting a Jewish Employee Resource Group (ERG) and more with our Workplace Resources.
More Ways to Take Action
- Connect with your local ADL office to learn more about what’s happening on the ground and how you can take action in your community.
- Read ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt’s book It Could Happen Here
- Download our Responding to Antisemitic Incidents: A Resource for Jewish Communities toolkit, developed in partnership with the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ).
- ADL is dedicated to ensuring the safety of Jewish communal spaces. Learn more about securing your Jewish Institutions with resources from our partners Secure Community Network (SCN), Community Security Service (CSS), Community Security Initiative (NY and LA) and SAFE (Ohio).
- Apply for an ADL Center for Antisemitism Research Fellowship
- Sign Up for our Newsletters and follow us on social media to stay informed on the latest news and analysis
The work of ADL’s Center on Extremism is made possible, in part, with generous support from:
The ADL Lewy Family Institute for Combatting Antisemitism
David Berg Foundation
Crown Family Philanthropies
Lillian and Larry Goodman Foundations
Klarman Family Foundation
Morton H. Meyerson Family Foundation/Marlene Nathan Meyerson Family Foundation
Charles and Mildred Schnurmacher Foundation
The Nancy K. Silverman Foundation
The Tepper Foundation
The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation
Zegar Family Foundation