A protest against Jews, held by the Westboro Baptist Church
A protest against Jews, held by the Westboro Baptist Church

Antisemitism in the United States has existed for centuries. In the United States, most Jewish community relations agencies draw distinctions between antisemitism, which is measured in terms of attitudes and behaviors, and the security and status of American Jews, which are both measured by the occurrence of specific incidents. FBI data shows that in every year since 1991, Jews were the most frequent victims of religiously motivated hate crimes, according to a report which was published by the Anti-Defamation League in 2019.[1] Evidence suggests that the true number of hate crimes against Jews is underreported, as is the case for many other targeted groups.[2]

Public opinion surveys paint a mixed picture. According to a survey which was conducted by the Anti-Defamation League in 2019, antisemitism is rejected by a majority of Americans, with 79% of them lauding Jews' cultural contributions to the nation, however the same poll found that 19% of Americans adhered to the longstanding antisemitic canard that Jews co-control Wall Street,[3] and 31% agreed with the statement "Jewish employers go out of their way to hire other Jews".[4]

A 2020 survey of American Millennials and members of Generation Z, found 24% either agreed that the Holocaust might be a myth or that accounts of it had been exaggerated.[5][6]

American viewpoints on Jews and antisemitism

Roots of American attitudes towards Jews and Jewish history in America

See also: History of the Jews in the United States and History of antisemitism in the United States

Krefetz (1985) asserts that antisemitism in the 1980s seems "rooted less in religion or contempt and more rooted in envy, jealousy and fear" of Jewish affluence, and the hidden power of "Jewish money".[7] Historically, antisemitic attitudes and rhetoric tend to increase when the United States is faced with a serious economic crisis.[8] Academic David Greenberg has written in Slate, "Extreme anti-communism always contained an antisemitic component: Radical, alien Jews, in their demonology, orchestrated the Communist conspiracy." He also has argued that, in the years following World War II, some groups on "the American right remained closely tied to the unvarnished antisemites of the '30s who railed against the 'Jew Deal'", a bigoted term which was used against the New Deal measures under President Franklin D. Roosevelt.[9] American antisemites have viewed the fraudulent text The Protocols of the Elders of Zion as a real reference to a supposed Jewish cabal which was out to subvert and ultimately destroy the U.S.[10]

The "Great Replacement" theme was stressed by highlighting the supposed threat of Jews and other immigrants replacing Native Americans.[11] Antisemitic activists in the 1920s and 1930s were led by Henry Ford and other figures like William Dudley Pelley, Charles Coughlin and Gerald L. K. Smith, as well as the Ku Klux Klan in the mid-1920s. They promulgated various interrelated conspiracy theories that widely spread the fear that Jews were working for the destruction or replacement of white Americans and Christianity in the U.S.[12][13]

Stereotypes

Main article: Stereotypes of Jews

The most persistent form of antisemitism has been a series of widely circulating stereotypes that portray Jews as being socially, religiously, and economically unacceptable to American life. The Jewish people, as a whole, were looked down upon. They were made to feel unwanted, they were marginalized by American society and they were considered a menace to the United States.[14]

Martin Marger wrote, "A set of distinct and consistent negative stereotypes, some of which can be traced as far back as the Middle Ages in Europe, has been applied to Jews."[15] David Schneder wrote, "Three large clusters of traits are part of the Jewish stereotype (Wuthnow, 1982). First, [American] Jews are seen as being powerful and manipulative. Second, they are accused of dividing their loyalties between the United States and Israel. A third set of traits concerns Jewish materialistic values, aggressiveness, clannishness."[16]

Stereotypes of Jewish people share some of the same content as stereotypes of Asians: perceived disloyalty, power, intelligence, and dishonesty overlap. The similarity between the content of stereotypes of Jews and the content of stereotypes of Asians may stem from the fact that many immigrant Jews and many immigrant Asians both developed a merchant role, a role which was also historically held by many Indians in East Africa, where the content of stereotypes of them resembles the content of stereotypes of Asians and Jews in the United States.[17]

Some of the antisemitic canards which have been cited by the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith (ADL) in its studies of U.S. social trends include the claims that "Jews have too much power in the business world," "Jews are more willing to use shady practices to get what they want," and "Jews always like to be at the head of things." Another issues that garners attention is the assertion that Jews have an excessive amount of influence on American cinema and news media.[18]

Statistics of American viewpoints and analysis

Polls and studies point to a steady decrease in antisemitic attitudes, beliefs, and manifestations among the American public.[18][19] A 1992 survey by the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith (ADL) showed that about 20% of Americans—between 30 and 40 million adults—held antisemitic views, a considerable decline from the total of 29% found in 1964. However, another survey by the same organization concerning antisemitic incidents showed that the curve has risen without interruption since 1986.[19]

2005 survey

The number of Americans holding antisemitic views declined markedly six years later when another ADL study classified only 12 percent of the population—between 20 and 25 million adults, as "most antisemitic." Confirming the findings of previous surveys, both studies also found that African Americans were significantly more likely than whites to hold antisemitic views, with 34 percent of blacks classified as "most antisemitic," compared to 9 percent of whites in 1998.[19] The 2005 Survey of American Attitudes Towards Jews in America, a national poll of 1,600 American adults conducted in March 2005, found that 14% of Americans—or nearly 35 million adults—hold views about Jews that are "unquestionably antisemitic," compared to 17% in 2002, In 1998, the number of Americans with hardcore antisemitic beliefs had dropped to 12% from 20% in 1992.

The 2005 survey found "35 percent of foreign-born Hispanics (down from 44% [in 2002])" and 36 percent of African-Americans hold strong antisemitic beliefs, four times more than the 9 percent for whites."[20] The 2005 Anti-Defamation League survey includes data on Hispanic attitudes, with 29% being most antisemitic (as opposed as 9% for whites and 36% for blacks), being born in the United States helped alleviate that attitude: 35% of foreign-born Hispanics and only 19% of those born in the US.[20]

The survey findings come at a time of increased antisemitic activity in America. The 2004 ADL Audit of Antisemitic Incidents reported that antisemitic incidents reached their highest level in nine years. A total of 1,821 antisemitic incidents were reported in 2004, an increase of 17% over the 1,557 incidents reported during 2003.[21] "What concerns us is that many of the gains we had seen in building a more tolerant and accepting America seem not to have taken hold as firmly as we had hoped," said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director. "While there are many factors at play, the findings suggest that antisemitic beliefs endure and resonate with a substantial segment of the population, nearly 35 million people."

After 2005

In 2007 an ABC News report recounted that past ABC polls across several years have tended to find that about 6% of Americans self-report prejudice against Jews as compared to about 25% being against Arab Americans and about 10% against Hispanic Americans. The report also remarked that a full 34% of Americans reported having "some racist feelings" in general as a self-description.[22]

A 2009 study which was titled "Modern Anti-Semitism and Anti-Israeli Attitudes", published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in 2009, tested a new theoretical model of antisemitism among Americans in the Greater New York area with three experiments. The research team's theoretical model proposed that mortality salience (reminding people that they will someday die) increases antisemitism and that antisemitism is often expressed as anti-Israel attitudes. The first experiment showed that mortality salience led to higher levels of antisemitism and lower levels of support for Israel. The study's methodology was designed to tease out antisemitic attitudes that are concealed by polite people. The second experiment showed that mortality salience caused people to perceive Israel as very important, but did not cause them to perceive any other country this way. The third experiment showed that mortality salience led to a desire to punish Israel for human rights violations but not to a desire to punish Russia or India for identical human rights violations. According to the researchers, their results "suggest that Jews constitute a unique cultural threat to many people's worldviews, that antisemitism causes hostility to Israel, and that hostility to Israel may feed back to increase antisemitism." Furthermore, "those claiming that there is no connection between antisemitism and hostility toward Israel are wrong."[23]

The 2011 Survey of American Attitudes Toward Jews in America released by the ADL found that the recent world economic recession increased some antisemitic viewpoints among Americans. Abraham H. Foxman, the organization's national director, argued, "It is disturbing that with all of the strides we have made in becoming a more tolerant society, antisemitic beliefs continue to hold a vice-grip on a small but not insubstantial segment of the American public." Specifically, the polling found that 19% of Americans answered "probably true" to the assertion that "Jews have too much control/influence on Wall Street" while 15% concurred with the related statement that Jews seem "more willing to use shady practices" in business. Nonetheless, the survey generally reported positive attitudes for most Americans, the majority of those who were surveyed expressed philo-Semitic sentiments such as 64% agreeing that Jews have contributed much to U.S. social culture.[3]

A 2019 survey by the Jewish Electorate Institute found that 73% of American Jews feel less secure since the election of Donald Trump to the presidency. Since 2016, antisemitic attacks against synagogues have contributed to this fear. The survey found that combatting antisemitism is a priority issue in domestic politics among American Jews, including millennials.[24]

Antisemitism within the African-American community

See also: African American–Jewish relations

Surveys which were conducted by the ADL in 2007, 2009, 2011, and 2013 all found that the large majority of African-Americans who were questioned rejected antisemitism and expressed the same kinds of generally tolerant viewpoints as other Americans who were also surveyed. For example, their 2009 study reported that 28% of African-Americans surveyed displayed antisemitic views while a 72% majority did not. However, those three surveys all found that negative attitudes towards Jews were stronger among African-Americans than among the general population at large.[25]

According to earlier ADL research, dating back to 1964, the trend that African-Americans are significantly more likely than white Americans to hold antisemitic beliefs across all education levels has remained unchanged over the years. Nonetheless, the percentage of the population which holds a negative opinion of Jews has also waned considerably in the black community during this period. In a 1967 New York Times Magazine article which was titled "Negroes are Anti-Semitic Because They're Anti-White," the African-American author James Baldwin sought to explain the prevalence of black antisemitism.[26] An ADL poll from 1992 stated that 37% of African-Americans surveyed displayed antisemitism;[18] in contrast, a poll from 2011 found that only 29% did so.[25]

Personal backgrounds play a huge role in the lives of people who hold prejudiced versus tolerant views. Among black Americans with no college education, 43% of them fell into the most antisemitic group (versus 18% of the general population) compared to only 27% among blacks with some college education and just 18% among blacks with a four-year college degree (versus 5% of people in the general population with a four-year college degree). The data from the ADL's 1998 polling research showed a clear pattern.[18] Although the 1998 ADL survey found a strong correlation between education level and antisemitism among African Americans, blacks at all educational levels were still more likely than whites to accept anti-Jewish stereotypes.[27]

However, many prominent members of the African-American community have spoken out against antisemitism, including Kareem Abdul-Jabbar[28] and Zach Banner.[29]

Holocaust denial

Further information: Holocaust denial

Austin App, a German-American La Salle University professor of medieval English literature, is considered the first major American Holocaust denier.[30] App wrote extensively in newspapers and periodicals, and he also wrote a couple of books which detailed his defense of Nazi Germany and Holocaust denial. App's work inspired the Institute for Historical Review, a California center which was founded in 1978 with the sole purpose of denying the Holocaust.[31] One of the newer forms of antisemitism is the denial of the Holocaust by revisionist historians and neo-Nazis.[32]

A survey conducted in 2020 found that close to two-thirds of Millennials and Gen Z adults were not aware that 6 million Jews were killed in the Holocaust,[5][33] and almost a quarter said they did not believe there was a Holocaust or were not sure.[5][6]

Antisemitic organizations

White supremacists

This section needs expansion. You can help by adding to it. (May 2019)
The flag of the Knights Party, the political branch of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan
The flag of the Knights Party, the political branch of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan

There are a number of antisemitic organizations in the United States, some of them violent, which espouse religious antisemitism, racial antisemitism and white supremacy. They include Christian Identity Churches, White Aryan Resistance, the Ku Klux Klan, the American Nazi Party, and many other organizations. Several fundamentalist churches, such as the Westboro Baptist Church and the Faithful Word Baptist Church, also preach antisemitic messages. The largest neo-Nazi organizations in the United States are the National Nazi Party and the National Socialist Movement. Adopting the look and emblems of white power skinheads, many members of these antisemitic groups shave their heads and tattoo themselves with Nazi symbols such as swastikas, SS insignias, and "Heil Hitler". Additionally, antisemitic groups march and preach antisemitic messages throughout America.[34]

Nation of Islam

Main article: Nation of Islam and antisemitism

Further information: Antisemitism in Islam

A number of Jewish organizations, Christian organizations, Muslim organizations, and academics consider the Nation of Islam to be antisemitic. Specifically, they claim that the Nation of Islam has engaged in revisionist and antisemitic interpretations of the Holocaust and exaggerates the role of Jews in the Atlantic slave trade.[35][failed verification]

In December 2012, the Simon Wiesenthal Center put the NOI's leader Louis Farrakhan on its list of the ten most prominent antisemites in the world. He was the only American to make it onto the list. The organization cited statements that he had made in October of that year in which he claimed that "Jews control the media" and "Jews are the most violent of people".[36]

Farrakhan has denied charges of antisemitism, although his denial included a reference to "Satanic Jews." After he was banned from Facebook, he stated that those who consider him a hater don't know him personally. However, he admitted that Facebook's designation of him as a "dangerous individual" was correct.[37]

New antisemitism

Poster held by a protester at an anti-war rally in San Francisco on February 16, 2003
Poster held by a protester at an anti-war rally in San Francisco on February 16, 2003

New antisemitism is the idea that a new form of antisemitism has developed in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, tending to manifest itself as anti-Zionism and criticism of the Israeli government.[38]: 296–297  The concept is included in some definitions of antisemitism, such as the Working Definition of Antisemitism and the 3D test of antisemitism.

The concept generally posits that in the late 20th and early 21st centuries much of what is purported to be criticism of Israel is in fact tantamount to demonization, and that together with an alleged international resurgence of antisemitic attacks on Jews,[39] desecration of Jewish symbols and Judaism,[39] Holocaust denial,[39] and an increased acceptance of antisemitic beliefs in public discourse and online hate speech,[39] such demonization represents an evolution in the appearance of antisemitic beliefs.[40]

Proponents of the concept argue that anti-Zionism and demonization of Israel, or double standards applied to its conduct (some proponents also include anti-Americanism, anti-globalization, and Third-Worldism) may be linked to antisemitism, or constitute disguised antisemitism, particularly when emanating simultaneously from the far-left, Islamism, and the far-right.[38]: 296–297 [41][42]

Critics of the concept argue that it conflates political anti-Zionism and criticism of the Israeli government with racism, Jew-hatred, and the Holocaust, that it defines legitimate criticism of Israel too narrowly and demonization too broadly, that it trivializes the meaning of antisemitism, and that the concept is used in practice to silence political debate and freedom of speech regarding the ongoing Israeli–Palestinian conflict.[43]

Antisemitism on college campuses

Further information: Universities and antisemitism

Many Jewish intellectuals who fled from Nazi Germany after Hitler's rise to power in the 1930s arrived in the United States. There, they hoped to continue their academic careers, but barring a scant few, they found little acceptance in elite institutions in Depression-era America with its undercurrent of antisemitism. Instead, they found work in historically black colleges and universities in the American South.[44][45]

On April 3, 2006, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights announced its finding that incidents of antisemitism are a "serious problem" on college campuses throughout the United States. The Commission recommended for the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights to protect college students from antisemitism by vigorous enforcement of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It further recommended for the U.S. Congress to clarify that Title VI applies to discrimination against Jewish students.[46]

In February 2015, the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights under Law and Trinity College[47] presented the results of a national survey of American Jewish college students. The survey had a 10-12% response rate and did not claim to be representative. The report showed that 54% of the 1,157 self-identified Jewish students at 55 campuses nationwide who took part in the online survey reported having experienced or witnessed antisemitism on their campuses during the Spring semester of the last academic year.

A 2017 report by Brandeis University's Steinhardt Social Research Institute indicated that most Jewish students never experience anti-Jewish remarks or physical attacks. The study, "Limits to Hostility," notes that even though it is often reported in the news, actual antisemitic hostility remains rare on most campuses and is seldom encountered by Jewish students.[48] The study attempted to document the student experience at the campus level, adding detail to previous national-level surveys.[49]: 5  The report summary highlights the finding that antisemitism exists on campus, but "Jewish students do not think their campus is hostile to Jews."

The National Demographic Survey of American Jewish College Students provided a snapshot of the type, context, and location of antisemitism as it was experienced by a large national sample of Jewish students on university and four-year college campuses.[50] Inside Higher Ed focused on the more surprising findings of the report, like the fact that high rates of antisemitism were also reported at institutions regardless of their location or type, and the data collected after the survey suggests that discrimination occurs during low-level, everyday interpersonal activities, and Jewish students feel that their reports of antisemitism are largely ignored by the administration.[51] However, not all of the reception was positive, and The Forward argued that the study documented only a snapshot in time, rather than a trend; it did not survey a representative sample of Jewish college students; and it was flawed by allowing students to define antisemitism and thus the term open to interpretation.[52]

In September 2021, in collaboration with the Cohen Group, the Brandeis Center conducted a poll of American Jewish fraternity and sorority members. The survey found that more than 65% of the respondents had experienced or were familiar with an antisemitic attack in the previous 120 days. Nearly half of the respondents felt the need to hide their Jewish identity out of fear.[53]

Hate crimes

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See also: List of antisemitic incidents in the United States and List of attacks on Jewish institutions in the United States

  Private residence (22%)
  College campus (7%)
  Jewish institution / school (11%)
  Non-Jewish school (12%)
  Public area (35%)
  Private building / area (12%)
  Cemetery (1%)

In April 2019, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) reported that antisemitism in the U.S. was at "near-historic levels," with 1,879 attacks recorded against individuals and institutions during 2018, "the third-highest year on record since the ADL started tracking such data in the 1970s."[54]

This followed data from earlier in the decade which showed a multi-year slide in antisemitism, including a 19% decline in 2013.[55]

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) organizes Uniform Crime Reports (UCR) which are designed to collect and evaluate statistics of offenses which are committed in the U.S. In 2014, 1,140 victims of anti-religious hate crimes were listed, of which 56.8% were motivated by offenders' anti-Jewish biases. 15,494 law enforcement agencies contributed to the UCR analysis.[56][57]

According to the American Enterprise Institute, Jews were the most likely of any group, religious or otherwise, to be targeted for hate crimes in the U.S. in 2018,[58] 2016,[59] and 2015.[60] The New York Times reported that Jews were the most targeted in proportion to their population size in 2005,[61] and they were the second-most targeted individuals after LGBT individuals in 2014.[61][62]

The NYPD reported a 75% increase in the amount of swastika graffiti between 2016 and 2018, with an uptick observed after the Pittsburgh shooting. Out of 189 hate crimes in New York City in 2018, 150 featured swastikas.[63] On February 1, 2019, graffiti which read "fucking Jews" was found on the wall of a synagogue in LA.[64] During Hanukkah festivities in December 2019, a number of attacks committed in New York were possibly motivated by antisemitism, including a mass stabbing in Monsey.[65]

In May 2021 there was an upsurge of violent assaults on Jews in the United States at the same time as the Gaza conflict, according to the Secure Community Network and Network Contagion Research Institute.[66]

2018 Pittsburgh synagogue shooting

People paying their respects at a memorial to the victims of the Tree of Life synagogue
People paying their respects at a memorial to the victims of the Tree of Life synagogue

The Pittsburgh synagogue shooting was an antisemitic terrorist attack in the form of a mass shooting, which took place at the Tree of Life – Or L'Simcha Congregation[a] synagogue in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States. The congregation, along with New Light Congregation and Congregation Dor Hadash, which also worshipped in the building, was attacked during Shabbat morning services on October 27, 2018. The perpetrator killed eleven people and wounded six, including several Holocaust survivors. It was the deadliest attack ever on the Jewish community in the United States.[68][69]

A lone suspect, identified as 46-year-old Robert Gregory Bowers,[70] was shot multiple times by police and arrested at the scene.[71] Bowers had earlier posted antisemitic comments against HIAS (formerly, Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society) on the online alt-tech social network Gab.[72][73][74] Dor Hadash[75] had participated in HIAS's National Refugee Shabbat the previous week. Referring to Central American migrant caravans and immigrants, Bowers posted a message on Gab in which he wrote that "HIAS likes to bring invaders in that kill our people. I can't sit by and watch my people get slaughtered. Screw your optics, I'm going in."[76][77] He has been charged with 63 federal crimes, some of which are capital crimes.[71] He has pleaded not guilty.[71] He separately faces 36 charges in Pennsylvania state court.[78]

2019 Poway synagogue shooting

The Poway synagogue shooting occurred on April 27, 2019, at Chabad of Poway synagogue in Poway, California, United States,[79][80] a city approximately 20 miles (32 km) north of San Diego, on the last day of the Jewish Passover holiday, which fell on a Shabbat.[81] Armed with an AR-15 style rifle,[82] John Timothy Earnest fatally shot one woman and injured three other persons, including the synagogue's rabbi.[83][84] After fleeing the scene, Earnest phoned 9-1-1 and reported the shooting. He was apprehended in his car approximately two miles (3.2 km) from the synagogue by a San Diego police officer.

In September 2021, Earnest was sentenced by a state court in San Diego County to life in prison without the possibility of parole, plus an additional 121 years to life and another 16 years as part of a plea agreement.[85] In December 2021, Earnest was sentenced in federal court to life in prison with no chance of parole, plus 30 years, with the federal and state life sentences running consecutively instead of concurrently.[86]

2019 Jersey City shooting

Khal Adas Greenville and JC Kosher Supermarket(August 2019)
Khal Adas Greenville and JC Kosher Supermarket
(August 2019)
On December 10, 2019, a shooting took place at a kosher grocery store in the Greenville section of Jersey City, New Jersey. Five people were killed at the store, including the two assailants, David N. Anderson and Francine Graham. Additionally, the assailants wounded one customer and two police officers. A Jersey City Police Department detective was also shot and killed by the assailants at a nearby cemetery just before the grocery store attack.[87][88][89] Anderson, who had connections to extremist groups, had a history of posting antisemitic and anti-law enforcement messages on social media; New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal stated that evidence indicated that the attacks were acts of hate and domestic terrorism which were fueled by antisemitism and anti-police sentiment. Authorities believe that a much larger attack had been planned, but it was thwarted by the police detective's intervention at the cemetery. The shooting was part of a wave of violent attacks against Jews in the United States.[90][91][92]

2022 Colleyville synagogue hostage crisis

Police outside the Colleyville synagogue on January 15, 2022
Police outside the Colleyville synagogue on January 15, 2022
On January 15, 2022, Malik Akram, a 44-year-old British Pakistani armed with a pistol, took four people hostage in the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue in Colleyville, Texas, United States, during a Sabbath service.[93] Hostage negotiations ensued, during which Akram demanded the release of Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani national and alleged al-Qaeda operative imprisoned in nearby Fort Worth for attempted murder and other crimes.[93] He released one hostage after six hours, and the remaining three hostages escaped eleven hours into the standoff. Tactical officers from the FBI Hostage Rescue Team subsequently entered the synagogue and fatally shot Akram.

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Hebrew: עֵץ חַיִּים – אוֹר לְשִׂמְחָה[67]

References

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Further reading

Historiography and memory