ADL Audit Finds Antisemitic Incidents Reached All-Time High In 2021

Incidents targeting Jews in CO, NM, WY surged 49 percent to highest level reported in more than a decade; incidents nationwide increased 34 percent year over year

Denver, CO, April 26, 2022 … Antisemitic incidents in the Mountain States Region surged in 2021 mirroring a nationwide trend of increased anti-Jewish activity in the United States, according to a report released today by ADL (Anti-Defamation League). A total of 2,717 incidents of assault, harassment and vandalism were reported nationwide in 2021, which represents the highest number of incidents on record since ADL began tracking antisemitic incidents in 1979 – an average of more than seven incidents per day and a 34 percent increase from 2020 to 2021.

In the Mountain States Region of Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming, the number of reported antisemitic incidents spiked by 49 percent, surpassing the national percentage increase. There were 100 incidents of anti-Jewish assault, harassment and vandalism reported in the three-state region in 2021 compared to 67 incidents in 2020, according to ADL’s annual Audit of Antisemitic Incidents. The overwhelming majority of incidents occurred in Colorado with 92 reports in 2021 compared to 60 in 2020. In New Mexico, there were six reported antisemitic incidents in 2021 compared to eight in 2020. In Wyoming, there were two reported incidents in 2021 and zero reported in 2020.

Colorado ranked eighth among states for the number of reported antisemitic incidents, according to the audit. The number of reported incidents in Colorado in 2021 grew by 53 percent and reached the highest level in more than a decade.

ADL Mountain States Regional Director Scott Levin issued the following statement:

Antisemitism is not a hatred confined to the pages of history textbooks. It is a hatred that Jews living in Colorado, New Mexico, Wyoming and beyond are experiencing right here and right now. While we will redouble our efforts to confront antisemitism and hate, we cannot do it alone. We need all people of goodwill to recognize antisemitism for the real threat it is not only to Jews, but to all of our civil society.

Among the reports the ADL Mountain States Region received in 2021: 

Colorado

  • A Jewish family was harassed at a cemetery during the burial service for a family member by a man who drove by and yelled, “Heil Hitler.”
  • A Jewish resident’s mezuzah on her apartment door was vandalized.
  • A synagogue’s virtual Purim service, livestreamed to Facebook and YouTube via Zoom, was met with antisemitic and threatening messages in the live chat section on YouTube.
  • A Jewish individual received a harassing voicemail at their place of business from a caller who blamed Jews for the pandemic-related shut downs and called Jews “f***ing losers.”

New Mexico

  • A Jewish and Israeli student at the University of New Mexico was jumped and assaulted by individuals who made antisemitic and anti-Israel remarks to him.
  • A parking structure for the plaza that houses multiple Jewish institutions in Albuquerque was vandalized with a swastika and the “SS” symbol.

 Wyoming

  • A staff member at the University of Wyoming received a threating antisemitic email.

The 2021 ADL Audit identified:

▪ One case of assault in Colorado and one in New Mexico

▪ 66 cases of harassment in Colorado, three in New Mexico and two in Wyoming

▪ 25 cases of vandalism in Colorado and two in New Mexico

Nationwide, ADL’s annual Audit of Antisemitic Incidents found that antisemitic incidents reached a high watermark across virtually every category. Attacks against Jewish institutions, including Jewish community centers (JCCs) and synagogues, were up by 61 percent, incidents at K-12 schools increased 106 percent, and incidents on college campuses rose 21 percent.

Assaults – considered the most serious incident type because it involves person-on-person physical violence triggered by antisemitic animus – increased 167 percent, jumping to a total of 88 reports in 2021 from 33 in 2020. Incidents of harassment were up 43 percent, and acts of antisemitic vandalism rose 14 percent.

A substantial surge was reported during the May 2021 conflict between Israel and Hamas. There was a staggering 148 percent increase in reports of antisemitic incidents that month when compared in May 2020, as tensions were high and hundreds of anti-Israel protests took place in dozens of U.S. cities. Jewish individuals were violently beaten in the streets from New York to Los Angeles. There were a total of 387 incidents reported that month with 297 of the incidents occurring after May 10, the date marking the official start of military action.

The May conflict represented only one of several spikes reported throughout the year. Overall, anti-Israel sentiment did not account for the lion’s share of incidents in 2021. In fact, antisemitic acts also spiked in November and December, times when there was no similar triggering factor. Nearly 18 percent of the incidents last year – at least 484 – were attributable to actions by domestic extremists.

Major Findings:

In 2021, ADL counted a total of 2,717 antisemitic incidents across the U.S. This represents a 34 percent increase from the 2,026 incidents recorded in 2020 and is the highest number on record since ADL began tracking antisemitic incidents in 1979. The Audit classifies incidents into three categories:

  • Assault: A total of 88 incidents were categorized as assault, defined as cases where Jewish people (or people perceived to be Jewish) were targeted with physical violence accompanied by evidence of antisemitic animus. Antisemitic assaults increased 167 percent from the 33 reported in 2020. Eleven of the assaults in 2021 were perpetrated with deadly weapons. The 88 incidents of assault included 131 victims. Fortunately, no fatalities linked to antisemitic assaults were reported in 2021.
  • Harassment: Of the total, 1,776 incidents were categorized as harassment, defined as cases where one or more Jewish people (or people perceived to be Jewish) were harassed with antisemitic slurs, stereotypes or conspiracy theories. Acts of harassment increased 43 percent, up from 1,242 incidents in 2020.
  • Vandalism: Another 853 incidents were categorized as vandalism, defined as cases where property was damaged along with evidence of antisemitic intent. Acts of antisemitic vandalism increased 14 percent from the 751 incidents reported in 2020. Swastikas, which are generally interpreted as symbols of antisemitic hatred, were present in more than two-thirds (578) of these incidents.

Incidents were reported in all 50 states as well as the District of Columbia. The states with the highest number of incidents were New York (416), New Jersey (370), California (367), Florida (190), Michigan (112) and Texas (112). Combined, these states accounted for 58 percent of the total incidents.

In 2021, there were 525 reported incidents at Jewish institutions such as synagogues, Jewish community centers and Jewish schools, an increase of 61 percent from 327 in 2020. Of the total, 413 were incidents of harassment, 101 were incidents of vandalism and 11 were assaults. About one-quarter of the harassment incidents (111) were linked to anti-Zionist or anti-Israel sentiments.

ADL’s Audit recorded 484 antisemitic incidents attributed to known extremist groups or individuals inspired by extremist ideology. This represents 18 percent of the total number of incidents. White supremacist groups or extremists were responsible for 422 antisemitic propaganda distributions, a 52 percent increase year over year.

A total of 345 antisemitic incidents in 2021 involved references to Israel or Zionism, compared to 178 in 2020. Of those, 68 appeared in the form of white supremacist propaganda efforts, which attempt to foment anti-Israel and antisemitic beliefs.

A total of 494 incidents 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 represented 18 percent of the total incidents. Even without improved reporting through cooperative partnerships, the 2021 Audit numbers still would have been the highest recorded by ADL, with 2,223 incidents.

The ADL Center on Extremism has reflected the complete 2021 data, as well as data from the previous three years, on its H.E.A.T. Map, an interactive online tool that allows users to geographically chart antisemitic incidents and events nationally and regionally.

Israel-Hamas Conflict Stokes Antisemitism in U.S.

On May 10, 2021, fighting broke out between Israel and Hamas with heightened tensions and violence in some Israeli cities with large Arab and Jewish populations. As the crisis unfolded, there was a surge of antisemitic incidents targeting Jewish communities and individuals in the U.S. and around the world.

Between May 10 and the end of the month, ADL tracked a 141 percent increase in incidents over the same time period in 2020. There were 211 cases of harassment, 71 cases of vandalism and 15 assaults reported across the U.S., and nearly 40 percent of the total incidents that month included explicit references to Israel or Zionism.

At least eight of the antisemitic assaults were motivated by anti-Israel or anti-Zionist sentiment. For example, on May 18, patrons at a Los Angeles restaurant were attacked by individuals who arrived in cars carrying Palestinian flags who said, “You should be ashamed of yourselves” after the customers confirmed they were Jewish. The Palestinian supporters pushed one of the victims to the ground and kicked him. Soon after, a brawl erupted, and subsequent news reports indicated the attackers also hurled anti-Jewish slurs. On May 20, in Manhattan, a Jewish man wearing a yarmulke was attacked by a group of individuals who yelled anti-Jewish and anti-Israel slurs while they punched, kicked, pepper-sprayed and beat him.

Methodology

The ADL Audit includes both criminal and non-criminal acts of harassment and intimidation, including distribution of hate propaganda, threats and slurs, as well as vandalism and assault. Compiled using information provided by victims, law enforcement and community leaders, and evaluated by ADL’s professional staff, the Audit provides a regular snapshot of one specific aspect of a nationwide problem while identifying possible trends or changes in the types of activity reported. This information assists ADL in developing and enhancing its programs to counter and prevent the spread of antisemitism and other forms of bigotry.        

The Audit offers a snapshot of one of the ways American Jews encounter antisemitism, but a full understanding of antisemitism in the U.S. requires other forms of analysis as well, including  public opinion polling, assessments of online antisemitism and examinations of extremist activity, all of which ADL offers in other reports, such as ADL Global 100Online Hate and Harassment: The American ExperienceSurvey on Jewish Americans’ Experiences with AntisemitismMurder and Extremism, and the ADL Survey of American Attitudes Toward Jews.  

ADL is a leading anti-hate organization. Founded in 1913 in response to an escalating climate of antisemitism and bigotry, its timeless mission is to protect the Jewish people and to secure justice and fair treatment for all. Today, ADL continues to fight all forms of hate with the same vigor and passion. ADL is the first call when acts of antisemitism occur. A global leader in exposing extremism, delivering anti-bias education and fighting hate online, ADL’s ultimate goal is a world in which no group or individual suffers from bias, discrimination or hate. ADL’s Mountain States Region covers Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming. More at https://mountainstates.adl.org/.

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