As summer fades into fall, for Jews around the world the High Holy Days approach. Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, is a time of elation and celebration, when the observant and non-observant alike rejoice with family and friends and look forward to the promise of the next year. Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is a holiday during which Jews reflect and decide how to make amends for any transgressions in the past year. Together these two holidays mark an important time, a time in which they ponder just what being Jewish means to them.
Unfortunately for many Jews, this is a time in which they are all too aware of the rising number of hate crimes directed at them for no reason other than their faith. According to the FBI’s annual data on hate crimes, defined as criminal offenses which are motivated by bias, crimes targeting the Jewish community consistently constitute over half of all religion-based crimes. The number of hate crimes against Jews has ranged between 600 and 1,200 each year since the FBI began collecting data in the 1990s. There were 683 hate crimes against Jews in 2020, 963 in 2019 and 847 in 2018. Worse still, the FBI’s data is based on voluntary reporting by local law enforcement. For a variety of reasons, dozens of large cities either underreport or do not report hate crime data at all.
The above statistics were reported by the Anti-Defamation League, which also reported in its annual Audit of Antisemitic incidents that in 2020, it tabulated 2,024 reported antisemitic incidents throughout the country, the third-highest year on record since ADL began tracking antisemitic incidents in 1979.
The ADL audit goes on to report that of the 2,024 incidents recorded in 2020, 1,242 were cases of harassment, a 10% increase from 1,127 in 2019.
But Jew hate is not confined to harassment and attacks against Jewish persons. The ADL audit details that in 2020, there were 327 reported antisemitic incidents at Jewish institutions such as synagogues, Jewish community centers and Jewish schools, an increase of 40% from 234 in 2019. Two hundred and sixty-four were incidents of harassment, 61 were incidents of vandalism and three were incidents of assault. Of the 264 incidents of harassment, 114 were “Zoom bombings,” incidents where virtual meetings were interrupted by hate speech against Jews. Add to this the white supremacist fleering incidents, anti-Israel extremist protests and acts of vandalism against those institutions, and it is clear Jews are facing increasingly vitriolic and hateful rhetoric and incidents.
From 2018 to 2020, the ADL audit continues, “between 7 and 9% of antisemitic incidents reported to ADL have explicitly incorporated anti-Israel or anti-Zionist elements. This includes Jewish people being told they should ‘go back to Israel,’ synagogues being vandalized with pro-Palestinian graffiti, the distribution of flyers blaming Israel for perpetrating the 9/11 terrorist attacks, or Jewish students being harassed or excluded from student life because of their real or assumed connections to Israel. In January 2022, an individual was arrested by detectives with the New York Police Department Hate Crimes Task Force for using antisemitic slurs while physically assaulting a Jewish man who refused his demands to remove a sweatshirt with the logo of the Israel Defense Forces.”
As if all that is not enough, antisemitic incidents in this country seem to rise during and after peaks in military conflict in the Middle East. After the May 2021 conflict between Israel and Hamas, antisemitic incidents more than doubled, compared to the same time period in 2020.
The list of examples of extremists and antisemites perpetrating deadly violence against Jews is a long one (to see the list, visit adl.org). The bottom line: at just the time they are celebrating the most important and sacred holidays on their calendar, Jews face the reality that they have increasingly become targets for hate from extremists, from terrorists, and from the ignorant who walk among us. As Jews ready for their New Year and Day of Atonement, let us resolve to redouble our efforts to fight hate of ALL types.
Let us demand from our elected leaders more than just words, but strong action against hate crimes. Let us resolve that within each of our neighborhoods, within our college and university campuses, and on our streets, hate of all types will not be accepted. Together we can work to make our society one that accepts all who are different from ourselves and make our society one that will make it clear that hate is never acceptable. Let us all pray for the day when hate against Jews, and all others, is but a dim and unpleasant memory.