As violent antisemitism spreads, should American Jews worry?

In a recent opinion survey Britain’s Campaign Against Anti-Semitism (CAA) reports that 45% of British Jews expressed fear regarding their future in the country, “and 58% were concerned [Jews] have no long-term future in Europe.” Since English and American Jewry regard themselves “most secure” in the Diaspora, if British Jewry today fear for their security are American Jews justified in their continuing sense of security? Perhaps comparing polling results from each community will provide an answer. The recent UK poll spanned nineteen days, from December 23 to January 11. It included the massacres at Charlie Hebdo and the Jewish supermarket, January 7-9. The most recent survey of antisemitism in the United States by America’s Anti-Defamation League (ADL) was published in 2011 and in which antisemitism was described as holding "a vice grip on a small but not insubstantial segment of America.” 

The British poll, often represented as a single survey in press reports, actually comprises two separate studies, one by the CAA describing Jewish security described (see opening sentence to this blog) and a second commissioned to the British polling company YouGov addressing antisemitism among non-Jews. To my knowledge no survey of perceived Jewish security in the United States has been taken with which to provide comparison. Regarding non-Jewish attitudes regarding antisemitism I will compare the YouGov results to the most recent ADL survey of antisemitism among non-Jewish Americans, that taken in 2011.


The Surveys Compared: 

Two factors not discussed in recent press reports are: 1. the British surveys spanned nineteen days and if a spike skewed the results it was limited to the last four days, spanning the Islamist atrocities and; 2. the YouGov survey describes as “antisemitic” respondents who admitted to a single anti-Jewish stereotype. ADL generally limits “antisemitic” to persons who identify with three or more anti-Jewish stereotypes. I leave to the reader whether this represents “minimizing” the threat by ADL.

YouGov: A quarter of those polled believed Jewish people chase money more than other British people.

ADL: 19% of Americans believe that "Jews have too much control/influence on Wall Street"
YouGov: 17% thought Jews had too much power in the media
ADL: 14% agreed with the statement that "Jews have too much power in the U.S. today
YouGov: 13% said Jews talked about the Holocaust to get sympathy.
ADL: One-quarter of Americans believe Jews "still talk too much about what happened to them in the Holocaust."

And while YouGov never asked perhaps the central question describing the true depth of antipathy and potential for overt antisemitism, ADL reports that 31% of Americans believe that "Jews were responsible for the death of Christ."  


If events taking place today in France and Belgium raise concern among British Jewry appears not to impact their American cousins. Which raises the question: Is American complacency justified in believing themselves insulated from events occurring in Europe? Some suggest that the difference is the relatively small Muslim community in the US compared to most European countries. Outside of ADL assurances on the relatively benign antisemitism in the US, on what does this feeling of American Jewish security rest? The chart below describing FBI statistics of hate crimes from 2001 to 2012 may inspire doubt. That the next nearest target after American Jews was American Muslims at one-fifth Jewish attacks might raise more than “doubt” since the years covered begin at 2001, the Islamist hijacking of US airliners and crashing them into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. This led to Islamophobia in the US, and two wars in response to the suicide attacks. Perhaps some may be consoled by the 2012 FBI report showing a reduction in hate crimes against Jews from the previous decade’s 78.6% to just 66% for the most recent FBI report? And should we in the United States feel reassured that our assailants are not the Islamists terrorizing Europe? 

A very short list of “recent” and more “spectacular” anti-Jewish hate crimes that attracted the attention of the national press:

2009, white supremacist opened fire inside the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum killing a security guard. 

2009, in Massachusetts a white supremacist killed two black immigrants and told police that he was planning to go to a local synagogue that evening to kill as many Jews as possible. 

2011, after a multi-state killing spree by two white supremacists after their arrest the couple admitted they were headed to Sacramento, California, to “kill more Jews.” 

2014, a white supremacist went on a shooting spree targeting victims at two Jewish institutions resulting in three fatalities A Missouri mayor later said that he ‘Kind of’ Agrees with Killer’s Views. 

2014, days before the start of the Jewish High Holy Days Rabbi Joseph Raksin’s was murdered near a synagogue. The synagogue had been defaced with Nazi and other antisemitic symbols. At the rabbis funeral a car was similarly defaced.

Is there an explanation for the difference between Jewish attitudes in the US and UK? Both have long been considered, at least within the communities, as the most secure in the Diaspora. Is there a basis for American Jewry’s confidence in their “exceptionality”? 

Afterword: Writing this blog coincided with my community’s annual Jewish Food Festival. As the local klezmer band played Yiddish and Israeli and the audience sang along with "Tsena" there was little apparent awareness of the police cars ringing the JCC, the significance that as in Paris the gathering was overseen by police. In fact for as long as I remember police are posted outside synagogues during services and similarly attract little attention. So what makes their presence in American Jewish communities different from that in France before Charlie Hebdo and the Jewish market? And what does this describe regarding Jewish life in the post-Holocaust American Diaspora?