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American Jewish Committee survey reveals disparity in perceptions of antisemitism in U.S.

According to the survey, 82% of Jews think

According to the survey, 82% of Jews think antisemitism has increased either "a lot" or "somewhat," compared with 44% of the general public overall. Credit: Craig Ruttle

Ninety percent of American Jews recently surveyed said antisemitism was either a "very serious problem" or "somewhat of a problem," far higher than the 60% who held similar views among the general public, according to the American Jewish Committee, whose Long Island director discussed the agency's findings this week.

And "shockingly, American Jews are changing their behavior" — such as not wearing garments that might identify them as Jewish — as a result, Eric Post, the AJC's Long Island director, told members of eight area Jewish organizations and synagogues that hosted his discussion Wednesday night. About 90 people were online for the virtual program, he said.

Over the last year, Post said, "39%, nearly four in 10 American Jews, have avoided at least one of the following three behaviors: Twenty-two percent of us have avoided publicly wearing, carrying or displaying things that would help people identify them as a Jew. Seventeen percent avoided certain places, events or situations out of concern for their safety or comfort as a Jew." And, he said, "25% ... avoided posting content online that would identify them as Jewish or sympathetic to Jewish issues."

Post said it wasn't just "Jewish perceptions that confirm anti-Jewish incidents as pervasive." He cited what he said were 2020 FBI hate crime statistics showing there were 676 "anti-Jewish religious bias incidents" accounting for just over 57% of the 1,179 total religious bias hate crimes, and he said that was "8.7% of the total of 7,700 hate crimes in America" that year.

Other highlights of the survey:

  • 82% of Jews think antisemitism has increased either "a lot" (37%) or "somewhat" (45%) compared with 44% of the general public overall — 13% of whom said "a lot" and 31% of whom said "somewhat."
  • 57% of Jews said the status of the American Jew in the United States was the same as a year ago, while 31% said their status was less secure, and 11% said more secure.
  • 24% of American Jews said Jewish organizations they were affiliated with have been targets of antisemitism.

"We are facing antisemitism in ways that we never imagined right in our backyard, right in our elementary schools, in our high schools, in our towns, in our homes," said Rabbi Jaimee Shalhevet of North Shore Synagogue, which was one of the sponsors of Post's presentation. The other sponsoring agencies were Woodbury Jewish Center, Plainview Jewish Center, Temple Chaverim, Makom NY, Congregation Simchat HaLev, Midway Jewish Center and the Mid-Island Y JCC.

Shalhevet and Post talked about the need to recognize antisemitism in both its subtle and obvious forms, and how to respond to it.

Post suggested people look at the AJC's antisemitism definition at ajc.org. And he suggested victims of antisemitism should "raise awareness" by reporting it to authorities. The survey found that most respondents who said they faced an antisemitic remark online or in person did not report it.

Shalhevet also asked Post for guidance on how an individual could cultivate allies.

"I think, one, it's as simple as talking to your neighbors, talking to clergy in your neighborhood, talking to any leaders that you know," Post said. "Go to your neighbor who's a member of the Catholic Church and say, 'Can we get a small group together? ... I want to learn more about your history, your tradition. I would like to tell you about our tradition' " and share information about the AJC survey, for example.

"It's about building connections," Post said.

The State of Antisemitism in America 2021: Survey of American Jews, was conducted online and by phone between Sept. 1 and Oct. 3, of a nationally representative sample of 1,433 Jews aged 18 and older. A separate survey of a representative sample of 1,214 of the general public aged 18 and older was conducted between Sept. 9 and Sept. 22.

Both surveys were done by SSRS and have a margin of error of plus or minus 3.9 percentage points.

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