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Survey: Half of American Jews have experienced or witnessed anti-Semitism

The survey, conducted in January before the coronavirus outbreak, found that nearly two-thirds of Jews (63%) reported that they feel less safe than they did a decade ago.

People take part in a march crossing the Brooklyn Bridge in solidarity with the Jewish community, after a recent string of anti-Semitic attacks throughout the greater New York area, on Jan. 5, 2020, in New York.  (AP Photo/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez)

(RNS) — A new survey released on Holocaust Remembrance Day found that more than half of America’s Jews have either experienced or witnessed what they perceived to be an anti-Semitic incident over the past five years.

The survey was conducted in January, before the U.S. outbreak of the coronavirus, by the data analytics firm YouGov on behalf of the Anti-Defamation League.

It found that nearly two-thirds of Jews (63%) believe that they are less safe than they were a decade ago. Half are worried that a person wearing a yarmulke, religious skullcap or other public display of Judaism will be physically assaulted (47%) or verbally harassed (50%) “on the street or in a public place,” according to the survey. 

The survey included responses from 538 American Jews aged 18 or older and had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.

Among other findings:

  • 1 in 5 (21%) have been the target of anti-Semitic comments, slurs or threats.
  • 1 in 5 (22%) are affiliated with a Jewish institution that has been vandalized, damaged or defaced because of anti-Semitism.
  • 1 in 7 (14%) know someone who has been physically attacked because they are Jewish.
  • 1 in 20 have been physically attacked (5%) or have had “their home, car or property deliberately vandalized or defaced” because of anti-Semitism (6%).

“Over the past five years, have you experienced or observed any of the following in-person experiences:” Graphic courtesy of ADL

Perhaps most troubling, 27% of Jews have begun to employ at least one strategy to avoid being targeted.

“The most common strategy, adopted by more than one-in-ten (12%) Jews, is avoiding markers of Jewish identification — for instance, by not using one’s last name, covering or not wearing a Jewish star, or not identifying as Jewish on a social media site,” according to the report. 

Others (9%) “have avoided wearing religious clothing or accessories.”

“It is a sad state of affairs that in the face of widespread anxiety about anti-Semitic attacks, some Jewish Americans are modifying their routines and avoiding public displays of Judaism to minimize the risk of being targeted,” said Jonathan A. Greenblatt, ADL CEO and national director.

In the past year, incidents of violent anti-Semitism have continued. Last April, a woman was fatally shot at the Chabad synagogue of Poway, California. In December, a fatal shooting at a kosher supermarket in Jersey City, New Jersey, left two Jews dead, in addition to four others. Weeks later, five Jews were stabbed at a Hanukkah celebration in Monsey, New York. One of those stabbed, a rabbi, later died of his injuries.

The survey was released as Jews observe Yom HaShoah, or Holocaust Remembrance Day, which fell on Tuesday (April 21).

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