According to the Anti-Defamation League’s annual Audit of Antisemitic Incidents that was issued on Tuesday, antisemitic incidents reached an all-time high in the US in 2021, with a total of 2,717 incidents of assault, harassment, and vandalism. The ADL says this represents the highest number of incidents on record since the group began tracking antisemitic incidents in 1979. 2021 saw an average of more than seven incidents per day and a 34% increase, year to year.
A significant surge was reported during the May 2021 Operation Guardian of the Walls between Israel and Hamas, with a 148% increase in reports of antisemitic incidents over May 2020. Hundreds of anti-Israel protests erupted in dozens of US cities, and Jews were violently beaten in the streets from New York to Los Angeles in 387 incidents, 297 of which took place after May 10, the start of Israeli military action against Gaza.
But May was only one of several periods in which spikes in antisemitism were reported, most of which involved straight-forward Jew-hatred, without anti-Israel sentiment. Antisemitic acts spiked in November and December, without an Israel-related triggering factor. Almost 18% of antisemitic incidents in 2021––at least 484––were perpetrated by good, old, red-blooded domestic American Jew-haters.
ADL CEO and National Director Jonathan Greenblatt summed up the survey’s results, saying, “When it comes to antisemitic activity in America, you cannot point to any single ideology or belief system, and in many cases, we simply don’t know the motivation. But we do know that Jews are experiencing more antisemitic incidents than we have in this country in at least 40 years, and that’s a deeply troubling indicator of larger societal fissures.”
The complete dataset for antisemitic incidents for 2016-2021 is available on ADL’s H.E.A.T. Map (see above), an interactive online tool that allows users to geographically chart antisemitic incidents and extremist activity nationally and regionally. Some details have been removed from the incident listings to protect victims’ privacy.
- In 2021, ADL tabulated 2,717 antisemitic incidents throughout the United States. This is a 34% increase from the 2,026 incidents tabulated in 2020 and the highest number on record since ADL began tracking antisemitic incidents in 1979.
- Of the 2,717 incidents recorded in 2021, 1,776 were cases of harassment, a 43% increase from 1,242 in 2020, and 853 incidents were cases of vandalism, a 14% increase from 751 in 2020. The 88 incidents of antisemitic assault (a 167% increase from 33 in 2020), involved 131 victims; none of the assaults were deadly.
- In 2021, there were no assaults perpetrated against the Jewish community that resulted in mass causalities. Of the physical assaults against Jewish individuals, the vast majority (77 of 88) were perpetrated without the use of a deadly weapon.
- The surge of incidents in May 2021 coincided with the military conflict between Israel and Hamas. For the entire month, 387 antisemitic incidents were tabulated by ADL, 297 of which occurred between May 10 – the official start of military action – and the end of the month, an increase of 141% over the same period in 2020. Of the 297 incidents, there were 211 cases of harassment, 71 cases of vandalism, and 15 assaults.
- In 2021, 345 antisemitic incidents involved references to Israel or Zionism, compared to 178 in 2020. Of 2021’s 345 anti-Zionist/anti-Israel- related incidents, 68 took the form of propaganda efforts by white supremacist groups to foment anti-Israel and antisemitic beliefs. Most of the remaining incidents were expressions of anti-Israel animus that incorporated antisemitic imagery or harassment and demonization of Jews for their connection – real or assumed – to Israel.
- Incidents in K-12 schools, colleges, and universities increased in 2021 but were flat compared to the five-year average. In 2021, ADL logged 331 incidents at non-Jewish K-12 schools (up 106% from 161 in 2020), and 155 incidents at colleges and universities (up 21% from 128 in 2020).
- In 2021, there were 525 logged incidents at Jewish institutions such as synagogues, Jewish community centers, and Jewish schools, an increase of 61% from 327 in 2020. 413 were incidents of harassment, 101 were incidents of vandalism, and 11 were incidents of assault. Of the 413 incidents of harassment, 111 were anti-Zionism/anti-Israel-related, 42 were Zoombombings and 24 were extremist-related. Of the 101 incidents of vandalism, 33 involved a swastika, and 10 were related to anti-Zionism/Anti-Israel sentiment.
- In 2021, ADL recorded 484 antisemitic incidents attributed to known right-wing extremist groups or individuals inspired by right-wing extremist ideology. This represents 18% of the total number of incidents. White supremacist groups, for example, were responsible for 422 antisemitic propaganda distributions. This is a 52% increase from 277 in 2020. Other extremist activity included incidents instigated by the Goyim Defense League, a loose network of individuals connected by their virulent antisemitism.
- Of the 2,717 incidents included in the 2021 Audit of Antisemitic incidents, 494 were identified through newly established partnerships between ADL and several Jewish organizations, including the Community Security Initiative (CSI), Community Security Service (CSS), Hillel International, Secure Community Network (SCN), Union of Reform Judaism and the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism. This shared reporting represents 18% of the total number of incidents in 2021. Even without the additional reporting from partners, the 2021 Audit numbers would have been the highest recorded by ADL, with 2,223 incidents.