The State of Antisemitism

Yesterday (Thursday) I was one of hundreds who took part in the Anti-Defamation League’s “Fighting Hate from Home-2022 Audit of Antisemitic Incidents & the State of Antisemitism in the US” Zoom presentation.  In the presentation they did a deep dive into the state of anti-Jewish hate in the country and the alarming levels of antisemitic incidents, from vandalism to deadly violence.  We heard from ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt, Emily Snider of the ADL Center on Extremism as well as Scott Richman, the Director of ADL’s New York office who highlighted the disturbing incidents that continue to occur in the NY/NJ area-home to the largest Jewish population in the US.  They spoke at length about the toxic environment out there and that not only was there a rise in incidents, but a rise in antisemitic attitudes.

There are some that question the veracity of the large reported increase often attributing the spike in incident reporting due to greater awareness, hiring of regional security advisors, and the adoption of a common form being used in many communities (Savanah is one and you can use this form by clicking here).  ADL assiduously reviewed all reports ‘deduplicating,’ reviewing them manually, and running through different scan mechanisms.  In the end, they acknowledged that some of the increase in the number of recorded incidents is due to better reporting, but were clear to state that the effect of those new sources of information is marginal at best and that it is crystal clear that antisemitism is sharply on the rise.

In 2022 ADL counted 3,697 incidents of antisemitism including harassment, vandalism and assault targeting Jews which is a whopping 36% increase from 2021—the highest year since they began counting in 1979.  In fact, three out of the last four years were records.  The data and conclusions of this most comprehensive source of data on antisemitic incidents tracks with a recent report by the FBI showing a significant increase in hate crimes.

While we often read about incidents at schools/colleges, bomb threats, and targeting of the traditional Jewish community, the largest spike in antisemitism has been the propaganda distribution by white supremacist groups.  The Goyim Defense League (GDL), now based in Northern Florida, was responsible for over 13% of the incidents tallied in the report.  We have seen them project invectives on buildings (most recently at the Florida-Georgia game) hang banners on overpasses, and distribute flyers, blaming Jews for the COVID pandemic, Ukraine war, and limiting gun owner rights.  Holocaust denial and conspiracy theories are a constant in their vitriol.  There have been two “flyer drops” in Greater Savannah over the last year.

They also spoke about the “celebrity effect.”  Most notably were the statements by rapper Kaye West (“Ye”) (“…when I wake up I’m going death con 3 on JEWISH PEOPLE”) and am online endorsement of a movie (“Hebrews to Negroes: Wake Up Black America”) with many antisemitic tropes by basketball player Kyrie Irving.

It was interesting to note that of the many antisemitic acts, there was a decline in the references to Israel; in fact, there were 30% less anti-Zionistic incidents (some of that is attributed to the many issues associated with the Hamas conflict in 2021).  That rhetoric has continued to be a significant problem/challenge on college campuses.

And of course, social media is replete with antisemitic canards.  What was once “taboo” is now being made acceptable in main stream media with the Twitter becoming a host to hundreds of accounts that deal in anti-Jewish rhetoric.  As quickly as they are being identified, others are taking their place.  Add to that, the many independent sites that aggregate hate and you have a toxic cauldron of hate boiling over.

The ultimate danger to us all is the normalization of rhetoric.  We are seeing it in our every day lives.  Just last week a member of the community reached out to our new Community Security Director sharing their child’s experience in being bullied in school for the mere fact that they are Jewish.  Another person reported on a swastika that was painted on the sidewalk on Wilmington Island.

I suspect that when the community becomes more familiar with the Incident Reporting Form we will learn much more about our Jewish experience(s) here in Greater Savannah.  We urge you, whether in name or anonymously, to share occurrences of antisemitism, no matter how and where they present.  Understanding the challenge is the first step to addressing this rise of hatred and intolerance.

Wishing you a safe and meaningful Shabbat,

Shabbat Shalom