Nov 8, 2021 - News

Survey: Antisemitism fears drive Jewish people to change behavior

How much of problem is antisemitism in the U.S.?
Data: American Jewish Committee; Chart: Thomas Oide/Axios

About 25% of Jewish people in America have experienced some form of antisemitism, and nearly 40% have changed their behavior out of fear of being targeted.

Why it matters: The committee says the report confirms “that hatred of Jews remains a severe problem in the United States, requiring urgent attention — and that American Jews and the U.S. general public view the problem very differently.”

Dov Wilker, regional director for American Jewish Committee’s Atlanta chapter, told Axios he was most surprised by the number of Jewish people who are modifying their behavior to avoid becoming a target.

  • “People are changing their behavior for fear of a threat because they are Jewish and that’s a problem,” he said.

The American Jewish Committee’s survey of Jewish people in the southeast also unearthed some startling numbers:

  • About 6% of Jewish people in the South said they have been a direct target of a physical antisemitic attack in the last 12 months. That’s compared to the national average of 3%.
  • Twenty percent of Southern Jewish residents said they’ve avoided certain places and events in the last year out of concern for their safety. That’s slightly higher than 17% reported nationally.

Between the lines: Some people expressing opposition to the COVID-19 mitigation efforts are using antisemitic tropes, like comparing mask mandates to the Holocaust and incorporating the Nazi swastika in their messaging.

  • Wilker says this perpetuates the idea that this type of behavior is acceptable.
  • He also adds that antisemitism on social media influences younger children and teens, who may try to emulate what they see.

Antisemitism was in the news in September when bathrooms at Pope and Lassiter high schools in Cobb County were vandalized with swastikas. The school district told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the acts were part of a social media prank.

  • Those acts led the Cobb County Board of Education to approve a resolution denouncing antisemitism and racism.

What they're saying: Senior Rabbi Larry Sernovitz of Temple Kol Emeth in Cobb County told Axios the incidents presented an opportunity for faith-based organizations and concerned residents to have a dialogue with the school system about protecting students from bigotry.

  • “What this uncovered really is years and years of stories of antisemitism that has plagued our community,” he said. “And it uncovered a lot, for the good, the creation of community partnerships to deal with racism and antisemitism in Cobb County.”

While speaking out against hate is a great start, education must be part of any initiative to push back against antisemitism, Sernovitz said.

  • The rabbi said the Cobb County School District should reinstate the Anti-Defamation League’s No Place for Hate program, which was cut when board members in June passed a resolution banning the teaching of critical race theory.

What’s next: Temple Kol Emeth will host an Unpacking Anti-Semitism session at 7pm on Nov. 15 at its synagogue at 1415 Old Canton Road in Marietta.


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