May 2020 -- Iyar-Sivan 5780,  Volume 26, Issue 5

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ADL’s Annual Audit of Anti-Semitism

By Jonathan Greenblatt

ADL CEO and National Director


2019 was an unprecedented year.


ADL recorded a 12% rise in incidents over the previous year — an average of six antisemitic incidents occurred in the U.S. every day. This added up to the largest number recorded in ADL’s 40 years of tracking antisemitic incidents in the U.S. We saw vicious and lethal antisemitic attacks against communities in Poway, Jersey City and Monsey, and a spree of violent assaults in Brooklyn.


The data shows that the current surge in antisemitism is not confined to a few high-profile incidents — it is pervasive. Nearly every state was affected; many Jewish communities across the country had direct encounters with hate.


As we endure the COVID-19 pandemic, 2019 seems like the distant past. Much about our lives right now is very different than it was then. But antisemitism and other forms of hate continue. In fact, an antisemitic trope from the Middle Ages has reemerged: scapegoating the Jews for causing the plague.


ADL remains committed to fighting back against the rising tide of antisemitism. With your help, we will double down on our work with elected leaders, schools, and communities to end the cycle of hatred.


The American Jewish community experienced the highest level of antisemitic incidents last year since tracking began in 1979, with more than 2,100 acts of assault, vandalism and harassment reported across the United States. The total number of antisemitic incidents in 2019 increased 12 percent over the previous year, with a disturbing 56 percent increase in assaults.


Extremist groups or individuals committed 270 antisemitic incidents in 2019, up from 249 in 2018. A few examples: The Daily Stormer Book Club and other groups distributed hate-filled fliers on dozens of college campuses. Witness for Peace targeted a synagogue in Michigan every week on Shabbat. The white supremacist group Shield Wall Network disrupted a Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony in Arkansas. A small militant neo-Nazi organization called The Base orchestrated a multi-state vandalism ring dubbed “Operation Kristallnacht” that defaced synagogues with antisemitic imagery.


In April, ADL identified a dangerous white supremacist and brought him to the attention of law enforcement after he posted violent antisemitic threats online. Corbin Kauffman was charged with interstate transmission of threats, a federal crime that carries a maximum of five years in prison.


In K-12 schools and on college campuses across the country, students experienced antisemitic harassment, vandalism and even physical assault.


There were 411 antisemitic incidents reported in non-Jewish K-12 schools, an increase of 19% from 2018. Because many children don’t feel empowered to report their experiences, the actual number is probably significantly higher. In addition to the physical attacks, the harassment faced by Jewish students in elementary and high schools included Holocaust jokes and references, hostile posts on social media platforms like Snapchat and TikTok, and images of swastikas on walls and desks in their schools.


On college campuses, where 186 incidents were reported in 2019, 20 percent involved references to Israel or Zionism. Other acts of vandalism included the desecration of mezuzot in residential halls and hateful messages like “We must exterminate the Jews.”

Lauren*, a middle-school student in Georgia, experienced four separate incidents of antisemitism at her school. It began when a boy on her school bus said to her and other students, multiple times, that “All Jews must die.” On a different occasion, a boy performed a Nazi salute and said he was related to Hitler.


She took action each time, reporting back to her father, her teacher and the school’s vice principal. But the school’s response was inadequate. They weren’t supporting her, and they weren’t doing anything to change the school culture.


The family contacted ADL, and we responded immediately. ADL staff participated in a meeting between school district officials, the principal, and the girl’s father, helping them to develop a plan to address the school culture. ADL then facilitated a two-day intensive peer training and brought a speaker to a grade-wide assembly. The school has committed to implementing ADL’s anti-bias program, No Place for Hate, this year.

Now, the girl who felt the sting of these antisemitic incidents feels like her school is becoming a more welcoming environment for her and other Jewish students. Lauren has spoken at local ADL events, sharing a message that is very important to her: “You have to speak up. The next time anything, anything at all happens,” she exhorts the audience, “be responsible and report it.”


If you witness or experience an act of antisemitism or hate, please report it to ADL online or by connecting with your local ADL office.


(*Note: Lauren’s real name has been replaced for privacy reasons.)