newsBoycott, Divestment & Sanctions (BDS)

Antisemitism dramatically undercounted in 2022, AJC report says

Nearly half of American Jewish respondents approved of President Joe Biden’s response to antisemitism; 56% disapproved of Congress’ record in that regard.

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks in the East Room at the White House Hanukkah celebration on Dec. 1, 2021. In a new survey, Biden received a 47% approval rating and 34% disapproval rating from U.S. Jews on his responses to antisemitism. Photo by Dmitriy Shapiro.
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks in the East Room at the White House Hanukkah celebration on Dec. 1, 2021. In a new survey, Biden received a 47% approval rating and 34% disapproval rating from U.S. Jews on his responses to antisemitism. Photo by Dmitriy Shapiro.

Despite well-documented surges in antisemitism in America, new data suggests official numbers dramatically undercount the problem’s scope.

In 2022, more than one-quarter (26%) of U.S. Jews said they were targets of either physical or in-person or online verbal antisemitic attacks. Yet 84% of those targeted by antisemitic violence and 44% of those who experienced antisemitic remarks in person or online did not report the incident to police, social media companies nor Jewish organizations.

That’s according to the American Jewish Committee’s newly released State of Antisemitism in America report, which draws on phone and online interviews between Sept. 28 and Nov. 3 of last year with representative samples of Jews (1,507 people) and non-Jews (1,004 people), ages 18 and older.

AJC saw an increase of 10 percentage points in the number of Jews who feel less safe than they did in the previous year. In 2022, 41% felt less safe than in 2021, while in 2021, 31% reported feeling less safe than in 2020.

Per the report, 89% of Jewish and 68% of non-Jewish respondents said antisemitism is at least somewhat of a problem in America today. Forty-three percent of Jews and 22% of non-Jews said it was a very serious problem. Eleven percent of Jews and 24% of non-Jews said antisemitism is not much of a problem or not at all a problem in America.

Jewish and non-Jewish respondents were also divided on the degree to which U.S. antisemitism has increased in the past five years. Among Jews, 43% said it has increased a lot and 39% said it increased somewhat (total of 82%), compared to 16% of non-Jews saying it has increased a lot and 31% saying somewhat (total of 47%).

The general public was slightly likelier (91% compared to 89%) than Jewish respondents to say that antisemitism affects society at large, and not just Jews.

Among Jews surveyed, 2% were victims of a single antisemitic physical attack over the past year, with 1% experiencing more than one such attack. Eleven percent experienced one in-person antisemitic remark, and 9% multiple such remarks; 6% experienced a single online antisemitic remark, and 7% had repeated encounters with such hatred. More than half (57%) had seen repeated online antisemitic comments in the past year, and that number climbed to 69% among those ages 18 to 29.

The overwhelming majority of Jewish respondents said they did not alter behavior that would identify them as Jews. Seventy-six percent reported that they did not avoid wearing a Star of David, or other public means of self-identifying as Jewish, in the past year, while 23% said that it did so out of fear of antisemitism. Sixteen percent avoided certain spaces or situations out of fear of their comfort or safety as Jews, while 84% did not.

“In all, 38% of American Jews changed their behavior in the past 12 months out of fear of antisemitism,” the report stated.

Less than a quarter (23%) of Jews are involved with Jewish institutions that have been targeted by antisemitism in the past five years, although 50% said the Jewish institutions with which they are affiliated have increased security in the past two years.

Those who affiliate with Jewish organizations overwhelmingly feel safe in those Jewish spaces, according to the report: 28% very safe and 45% somewhat safe. Seventeen percent feels somewhat unsafe, and two percent very unsafe. Thirty-five percent think law enforcement is not too effective (26%) or not at all effective (9%) responding to Jewish security needs.

President Joe Biden received a 47% approval rating and 34% disapproval rating from surveyed U.S. Jews on his responses to antisemitism, while respondents approved of Congress at a rate of 21% and disapproved at a rate of 56% of its handling of antisemitism. When it came to state and local governments, 40% approved and 37% disapproved of responses to antisemitism.

Thirty-five percent of Jews were unfamiliar with the BDS movement, while 86% of those who were at least somewhat familiar with BDS found it antisemitic or associated with antisemitism (39% said it is antisemitic, while 47% said it has some antisemitic supporters). Sixty-five percent of non-Jews were unfamiliar with BDS, and about the same number of Jews called BDS antisemitic (38%) and a movement with some antisemitic supporters (50%).

Among non-Jewish respondents, 31% were unfamiliar with the meaning of the term “antisemitism”—with 9% having never heard it at all—while 69% were familiar with the term. Sixty-eight percent said antisemitism is a problem in America (22% a very serious problem), while 24% said it was not a problem.

Respondents were divided on the statement “Jews control the media,” with 90% of Jews saying that was antisemitic, compared to just 66% of non-Jews. Fifty-eight percent of Jews said comparing COVID-19 protocols to Jewish experiences during the Holocaust is antisemitic, while 44% of non-Jews agreed.

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