Antisemitic incidents spike by 34%, break US records in 2021 - ADL

The surge of incidents in May 2021 coincided with the military conflict between Israel and Hamas, the ADL found.

Jewish star necklaces are a signifier of Jewish identity and, some fear, a potential risk during times of antisemitism. (photo credit: GETTY IMAGES/JTA)
Jewish star necklaces are a signifier of Jewish identity and, some fear, a potential risk during times of antisemitism.
(photo credit: GETTY IMAGES/JTA)

WASHINGTON – The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) Center on Extremism released its annual audit of antisemitic attacks on Tuesday, indicating a record number of such incidents in 2021 since the organization started to track incidents of antisemitic harassment, vandalism and assault in the United States in 1979.

The ADL tabulated 2,717 antisemitic incidents throughout the United States in 2021.

“This is a 34% increase from the 2,026 incidents tabulated in 2020 and the highest number on record,” the organization noted.

Most of the 1,776 incidents were cases of harassment. The number represents a 43% increase from the 1,242 recorded in 2020. The second most common incidents were cases of vandalism, with 853 overall.

An alarming uptick of 167% was also recorded in the number of antisemitic assaults, with 88 in 2021 compared to 33 in 2020. According to the ADL, these incidents involved 131 victims, and none of the assaults were deadly.

 Demonstrators take part in protests outside a meeting of the National Executive of Britain's Labour Party which will discuss the party's definition of antisemitism, in London (credit: REUTERS/HENRY NICHOLLS) Demonstrators take part in protests outside a meeting of the National Executive of Britain's Labour Party which will discuss the party's definition of antisemitism, in London (credit: REUTERS/HENRY NICHOLLS)

“Of the physical assaults against Jewish individuals, the vast majority (77 of 88) were perpetrated without the use of a deadly weapon,” the report said.

The surge of incidents in May 2021 coincided with the military conflict between Israel and Hamas.

“For the entire month, 387 antisemitic incidents were tabulated by the ADL, 297 of which occurred between May 10 – the official start of military action – and the end of the month, an increase of 141% over the same period in 2020.” Of the 297 incidents, there were 211 cases of harassment, 71 cases of vandalism and 15 assaults.

The report also found that incidents in K-12 schools, colleges and universities “increased in 2021 but were flat compared to the five-year average.” The organization found a spike of 106% in the number of incidents at non-Jewish K-12 schools (331 in 2021 compared to 161 in 2020), and 155 incidents at colleges and universities.

“In 2021, there were 525 logged incidents at Jewish institutions such as synagogues, Jewish community centers and Jewish schools, an increase of 61% from 327 in 2020,” the report noted. Out of these incidents, 413 were cases of harassment, 101 were incidents of vandalism and 11 were incidents of assault, the ADL noted.

“Of the 413 incidents of harassment, 111 were anti-Zionism/anti-Israel-related, 42 were ‘Zoom-bombings’ and 24 were extremist-related. Of the 101 incidents of vandalism, 33 involved a swastika and 10 were related to anti-Zionism/Anti-Israel sentiment.”

Another finding in the 2021 report is that 484 antisemitic incidents were attributed to “known right-wing extremist groups or individuals inspired by right-wing extremist ideology,” according to the ADL. “This represents 18% of the total number of incidents. White supremacist groups, for example, were responsible for 422 antisemitic propaganda distributions. This is a 52% increase from 277 in 2020. Other extremist activity included incidents instigated by the Goyim Defense League, a loose network of individuals connected by their virulent antisemitism.”

A significant number of incidents – 494 – were identified through newly established partnerships between the ADL and several Jewish organizations, including the Community Security Initiative, Community Security Service, Hillel International, Secure Community Network, Union of Reform Judaism and the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, the organization stated.

“This shared reporting represents 18% of the total number of incidents in 2021. Even without the additional reporting from partners, the 2021 Audit numbers would have been the highest recorded by ADL, with 2223 incidents,” the organization reported.

ADL CEO and national director Jonathan A. Greenblatt said in a statement, “While we have always seen a rise in antisemitic activity during periods of increased hostilities between Israel and terrorist groups, the violence we witnessed in America during the conflict last May was shocking. Jews were being attacked in the streets for no other reason than the fact that they were Jewish, and it seemed as if the working assumption was that if you were Jewish, you were blameworthy for what was happening half a world away.

“When it comes to antisemitic activity in America, you cannot point to any single ideology or belief system, and in many cases, we simply don’t know the motivation,” the statement added. “But we do know that Jews are experiencing more antisemitic incidents than we have in this country in at least 40 years, and that’s a deeply troubling indicator of larger societal fissures.”