American Jews are altering out of fear


For too many American Jews, being Jewish no longer feels as safe as it once did. And the younger those American Jews are, the more they experience that threat firsthand.

An American Jewish Committee (AJC) study released this week sheds light on that heartbreaking reality and more. How affected are American Jews by rising antisemitism? Does the general public understand the weight they carry?

Based on parallel surveys of American Jews and the US general public on their perceptions and experiences of antisemitism in the US, AJC’s State of Antisemitism in America Report 2022 is the most comprehensive of its kind.

Here are five key takeaways from the report.

More Jews feel less secure in America. 

Over four in ten (41%) of American Jews feel their status is less secure than it was a year ago. That’s up 10 percentage points from 31% who reported feeling less secure in 2021. That sense of security has eroded, they say, primarily due in large part to the rise in antisemitic attacks, crimes, and violence; and how acceptable antisemitism and racism have become.

To prevent antisemitism from becoming normalized, Americans must speak out against antisemitic tropes and conspiracy theories, which affect all of us.

“One best practice in fighting antisemitism is when leaders of other communities do the speaking. People are more likely to listen to those they know, those they trust, and those who are like them,” said Holly Huffnagle,

AJC’s US Director of Combating Antisemitism. “This is why we need white evangelical leaders to disavow white supremacy and antisemitic conspiracy theories like QAnon. We need Black leaders to condemn Louis Farrakhan’s antisemitism. We need Muslim leaders to condemn antisemitism or antisemitic tropes when they appear in their own communities and Latino leaders to speak out against antisemitism in their communities”.

Nine in 10 American Jews (89%) think antisemitism is a problem in the US, and eight in 10 (82%) say it has increased in the past five years.

The hostage situation inside a synagogue in Colleyville, Texas in January 2022 also has raised anxiety levels. For American Jews who had heard something or a lot about Jews being taken hostage in Colleyville, the majority said it made them feel a great deal (18%) or a fair amount (33%) less safe as a Jewish person in the United States, and over a third (36%) said it made them feel a little less safe.

The feelings of insecurity are even greater among young Jewish adults who heard about the crisis, in which a gunman held three congregants and a rabbi hostage for 11 hours during Shabbat until they escaped. Among young Jewish adults ages 18 to 29 who heard a lot or some about the Colleyville hostage situation, 67% felt a great deal or a fair amount less safe at the time, compared with 47% of those 30 and older who felt the same.

Likewise, one in five American Jewish respondents (19%) said, because of antisemitism, they feel unsafe (somewhat or very) when attending synagogues, Jewish day schools, community centers, or any of the Jewish institutions with which they are affiliated. Meanwhile, confidence in law enforcement also seems to be on a downward trend. 63% of American Jewish respondents say law enforcement is effective in responding to the security needs of Jews. Among Orthodox Jews surveyed, 65% say law enforcement is effective in addressing their needs, a sharp decrease from 81% in 2021. 

American Jews are proud, but altering behavior out of fear.

The lingering presence of antisemitism has altered how some American Jews conduct their day-to-day lives and even whether they publicly identify as Jewish this past year. This includes the 23% of Jewish adults who said they have avoided publicly wearing, carrying, or displaying things that might help people identify them as Jewish; and the 16% who said they have avoided certain places, events, or situations because they are Jewish, out of concerns for their safety or comfort.

Likewise, one in five American Jewish respondents (19%) said, because of antisemitism, they feel unsafe (somewhat or very) when attending synagogues, Jewish day schools, community centers, or any of the Jewish institutions with which they are affiliated.

One in four (26%) American Jews reported being personally targeted by antisemitism in 2022 – a number that hasn’t declined since the survey question was first asked in 2019. While the number has not climbed, the fact that the threat has not waned is still troubling.

“When we first did this survey in 2019, the results were surprising for many people. They were still much higher in Europe, but we didn’t think it would be even this high in the US”, Huffnagle said. “To see the consistency over the years confirms our trust in the data, but it’s troubling to see”.

Overall, four in ten (38%) American Jews reported changing their behavior at least once out of fear of antisemitism.

Meanwhile, half of American Jewish institutions have boosted security measures in the last two years. But it is equally important to note the majority of Jews have not changed their behavior and still publicly identify as Jewish.

“While the survey is about American Jewish experiences with antisemitism, we also don’t want the focus to solely be on the negative and empower the antisemites”, Huffnagle said. “While nine in 10 say antisemitism is a problem, the majority are still going to synagogue and feel safe. They’re not taking off their Magen Davids or kippot. We need to point out that any Jew who is changing their behavior is one too many. But for the majority, it remains possible to be proudly Jewish. At the end of the day, it’s about community resilience”.

Here is link to the full report of AJC.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here