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Does Anti-Semitism Threaten American Jews?

As anti-Jewish attitudes increase on some campuses, in some political circles, and in some corners of the Internet, it is naïve to assume that the Jewish American community will not face spillover security risks.
Anti-Semitic Vandalism in Midwood, Brooklyn.

Anti-Semitic Vandalism in Midwood, Brooklyn.
Photo Credit: Sharon Miltz

In a recent issue of Time magazine, Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie, former president of the Union for Reform Judaism, writes that anti-Semitism is “not a threat to American Jews.” He could not be more wrong.

Let us start with the obvious. Any threat to world Jewry is a threat to American Jews.

According to the Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) important new study, there are now one billion adult anti-Semites in the world. As Rabbi Yoffie acknowledges, this is fully a quarter of the world’s adult population. Can American Jewry shrug this off?

One can quibble with the ADL’s methodology, but it is not far-fetched. ADL considers a person to be anti-Semitic if they give a positive response to six out of 11 survey questions like these: “Jews are responsible for most of the world’s wars,” “People hate Jews because of the way Jews behave,” and “Jews have too much control over the United States government.”

Consider the magnitude of this finding. In 2012, according to the Kantor Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry at Tel Aviv University, there were 686 reported incidents of physical violence, direct threats, and major acts of vandalism against Jews and Jewish institutions worldwide. This is bad enough on its own, representing an increase of approximately 30 percent over the prior year.

Worse, these figures understate the problem. According to the European Union’s Fundamental Rights Agency, 64 percent of European Jews who have experienced physical violence or threats do not report even the most serious incident. If this holds true for Jews elsewhere, the actual incident rate is approximately three times higher than reported, reaching 2,000 serious incidents annually.

But it gets worse. Even the adjusted figures suggest that Jews and Jewish institutions are enduring only one serious anti-Semitic incident per 500,000 anti-Semites annually. This means that in any given year, the overwhelming majority of anti-Semites are not acting on their aversions. Their reasons may be lack of opportunity, want of courage, fear of consequence, or adherence to convention. Economists call this “pent-up demand.”

As the post-Holocaust taboo against anti-Semitism erodes, the ramifications are troubling. Suppose that one in ten thousand anti-Semites should physically harm or threaten Jews or Jewish institutions in a given year. Under this scenario, serious anti-Semitic incidents would increase to 100,000 per year, even if anti-Semitic attitudes remain constant. In other words, things can get much worse.

Should Americans worry? In Western Europe, one in four Europeans harbors anti-Semitic attitudes. One recent survey indicates that roughly the same percentage (26 percent) of European Jews has been harassed for being Jewish within the last year. Perhaps the worst anti-Semitic incidents will be limited to the Middle East and Europe. But was the Nazi Holocaust no threat to American Jews merely because it remained off American shores? If there is any such thing as Jewish peoplehood, then security threats to any are threats to all.

Now consider the dangers to Israel. In the Middle East and North Africa, nearly three quarters of the adult population holds anti-Semitic attitudes. This can only fuel continuing threats to Israel. Can American Jews feel secure as long as Israel remains under continuing danger? Given Iran’s nuclear ambitions, Israel remains under the steady risk of catastrophe. No Jewish American could feel secure about this.

Now consider what Rabbi Yoffie probably meant to say. His point is that Americans do not face a direct threat of severe anti-Semitism. He is right that American Jews are not under siege. But he is wrong to minimize the threat that does exist. According to the ADL, only nine percent of Americans hold anti-Semitic attitudes. This sounds good, but it translates to 21,000,000 people. It means that there are far more anti-Semites than Jews in America. This may be one reason why the Federal Bureau of Investigation regularly reports that anti-Jewish hate crimes exceed hate crimes against any other religious group. On some university campuses, Jewish students have recently been spit at and called “dirty Jews” and worse. The problem is greater for those students who are known to support Israel on campuses where anti-Israel activism runs high.

About the Author: Kenneth L. Marcus is president and general counsel of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law. He previously held the Lillie and Nathan Ackerman Chair in Equality and Justice in America at the City University of New York’s Bernard M. Baruch College School of Public Affairs. Marcus also served as Staff Director at the United States Commission on Civil Rights.


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37 Responses to “Does Anti-Semitism Threaten American Jews?”

  1. Peter Resz says:

    Muslim complaints about hate crimes are newsworthy but Jewish hate crimes are far more numerous.

  2. So many Jews have assimilated that most people don’t know who the Jews are. If you are openly and proudly Jewish, you catch crap even from other Jews.Most anti-Semitism in the US is so much a part of the culture that it goes unnoticed or mentioned and accepted by Jews.You have three choices here: you can gravitate to complete secularism where “religion” is mostly absent, never mentioning it, yours or theirs; you can know your place as a dhimmi, or pet, an inferior in a Christian society and just make the best of it not crossing (!) them; you can be a Jew who will be assertive, establish boundaries clearly, and be criticized by all the above. Hide it, swallow it, or tear a new one.

  3. Maybe! This is meant to be seen! Better not, G-D has set in me a fighting spirit and through the grace of Abraham ,Isaac and Jacob will surround my paths with angles and no one shall harm one hair! Not one.

  4. Currently would have to say yes

  5. Sad but true – I’m not Jewish but I have eyes and can see what’s going on around me. Hate is hate, but some types of hate seem to be acceptable with the media and society. Some times I wish I were Jewish because they are God’s chosen to be a light to the world but then I’m glad I’m not because of how the world treats them. So far I haven’t found a valid reason for this unfounded hatred.

  6. Depends. If I’m working primarily with Indians, it’s never a problem. If I’m working with local Americans, I generally call in sick or use my vacation time the week of Easter Sunday.

  7. Are you finding that Christians are anti-Semitic as well?

  8. Generally, they’re not a problem. Just around Easter. Like I said, around then, I avoid the office. I’ve been called a Christ killer now at seven different companies over the course of two decades. Better safe than sorry.

  9. Paul Gelsman says:

    ANGELS not angles.

  10. There is no point to complain. I am from Kiev, Ukraine, so I consider myself an expert on anti-Semitism. The answer: stay bold and kick buts, JDL style. That will not bring love, but that will bring respect. And, what is even more important: self – respect.

  11. There is no point to complain. I am from Kiev, Ukraine, so I consider myself an expert on anti-Semitism. The answer: stay bold and kick buts, JDL style. That will not bring love, but that will bring respect. And, what is even more important: self – respect.

  12. "The problem is greater for those students who are known to support Israel on campuses where anti-Israel activism runs high." That is because American colleges are bought by Arabs.

  13. There’s more hate to muslims, look at Iraq, Lybia, Afghanistan, U.S. is the biggest hater

  14. these are IGNORANT PEOPLE UNAWARES OF THE WORD OF GOD

  15. and they will perish unless they become aware

  16. If you try to appease them, they will only get worse. Stay bold and proud , and they will back off. It is not easy, I know. But, it feels so good!

  17. Actually, I’m hoping to start blending in a little better in the coming years. Getting rid of the hebrew first name soon.

  18. Shemaya Shilo, the first two choices did not work some 70 plus years ago in one very “civilized” country in Europe. The third one has a chance for success.

  19. Sure does for me!

  20. Joyce Myers says:

    Anti-semitism is rampart

  21. Anti-Semitism has a long sad history. The Jews have survived while empires and dictators and right-wing idiots have gone.

  22. Anti-Semitism has a long sad history. The Jews have survived while empires and dictators and right-wing idiots have gone.

  23. Lorraine, angles are mean…. ;-) I see Christians *try* to support Jews every day on pages like this, and once upon a time a whole high tried to empty in support of me when the anti-semites came. Just the same I left education because of anti-semitism by the efforts of a small minority in control. Seems like it happens that way. But anti-semitism comes from a certain understanding of Christianity and was once even more prevalent. I won’t lecture you on that but every Christian should know where all this began. It was not the only time or place. It was others before the Christians. Aside from Christians who love Jews and Israel there is a long underlying conflict and a hatred embedded in the “New Testament” and history of the “Church.” No matter how individual Christians feel about us, there is always that history and those writings to hatch at any time and place. People need to stop looking at Jews as future or past Christians. That is not what G-d wants nor will it change whether anyone tries to love or hate us into being something else.

  24. They have never worked for me, Victoria. Strictly number 3 and JDL style.

  25. In proud of my name and my heritage! And my Moto is Never Again! I prefer a peaceful and complete relationship with fellow people, but come after me or mine and be prepared for someone who’s not defenseless

  26. Gary Gien says:

    When are we going to start a group to fight back at this cowardly act

  27. Not so G-D uses Angles , true their are falling angles and G-D knows which ones I’m talking too! The Christians you speak of are illiterate in the Bible! I fear no one , G-D is with me . Come get me ppl , I live in the USA in ms my add is on my page! G-D does not give the spirit of fear. If I die I go to heaven but you have to take me out first!
    Trust in The Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding ; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight Proverbs 3-56 …

  28. I love it … Israel Rozemberg!

  29. Loren Renee says:

    Yes! More and more. I’ve seen such intense hatred – particularly among people exposed to BDS. It creates a generation on antisemites

  30. So much hate in the world so sad.

  31. Yes and it would be carried out by Latinos and Blacks. Its already happening.

  32. Joe Ritchie says:

    This is disgusting. Leave the Jewish people alone.

  33. Gene Strong says:

    American Jews supported obama.
    Perhaps it is not true anti semitism

  34. Cody Flecker says:

    American Jews have become very much like the German Jews of yesteryear. Complacent and anti semitic themselves. Look at the American Jewish support for an anti semite like Barack Hussein Obama. and the Democratic Party.

  35. Ronny Mol says:

    Jew hate is NOT normal. We look like the goyim. It is G-d's way of bringing Jews to Israel or die in their host countries. Remember what happened 70 years ago.

  36. Alan Kardon says:

    How much have you donated?

  37. Basha Kline says:

    Even if Jews try to assimilate, to "fit in" – it will be the non-Jew who will remind us who and what we are…!

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