Antisemitic Incidents in U.S. Hit Record High in 2021: Report

Antisemitic incidents reported across the U.S. reached a new record high in 2021, according to a report released Tuesday by the Anti-Defamation League.

The ADL found that over 2,700 incidents were disclosed to the organization last year. The report's findings "should be a warning call to all Americans," ADL CEO and National Director Jonathan Greenblatt said Tuesday.

"Antisemitism isn't just a Jewish problem; it's an American problem that demonstrates or indicates the decay of our society," Greenblatt said. "All of us have a stake in addressing it."

The New York-based ADL has compiled annual reports of antisemitic incidents involving assaults, harassment and vandalism since 1979. The group says incidents are reported by victims, law enforcement officials, community leaders and partner organizations. The 2,717 incidents reported throughout 2021 exceeded the previous record of 2,107 incidents reported to the ADL in 2019. Last year's metrics also mark a 34 percent increase over the 2,026 incidents reported in 2020.

Anti-Defamation League annual anti-Semitic incidents report
A new record high of more than 2,700 antisemitic incidents were reported across the U.S. in 2021, according to the Anti-Defamation League. Above, a graphic seen at the ADL Entertainment Industry Dinner at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California, on May 24, 2017. Ari Perilstein/Getty Images

Greenblatt previously spoke about the rise in antisemitism in the U.S. while speaking with Newsweek's The Daily Break podcast in January. Five months before that conversation took place, the FBI released data showing hate crimes aimed at members of the Jewish community accounted for almost 60 percent of all religion-linked hate crimes reported in 2020, a small drop from the percentage reported by the FBI one year earlier.

"The sense that antisemitism is coming at Jews from all directions is part of why I think many in the community right now are really very concerned," Greenblatt told The Daily Break at the time.

On Tuesday, the ADL hosted a webinar to discuss the findings of its annual Audit of Antisemitic Incidents. Greenblatt and Oren Segal, the vice president of the ADL's Center on Extremism, both attended.

Before 2017, antisemitic incidents were on a "steady decline" from the early 2000s, Greenblatt said during the virtual discussion. There was a "historic" 57 percent spike in antisemitic incidents reported from 2016 to 2017, followed by the previous record-high number of incidents in 2019.

Despite the coronavirus pandemic's ongoing impact on school openings last year, the number of antisemitic incidents on K-12 campuses reported to the ADL increased by 106 percent in 2021 while incidents at colleges increased by 21 percent.

"Keeping in mind that the campuses weren't even open all year last year," Greenblatt said. "I mean, the data is stunning."

Reported incidents targeting Jewish institutions also increased by 61 percent, the report said. This includes Jewish community centers and synagogues.

There was an overall uptick in antisemitic incidents last May amid the conflict in Gaza, with the majority of that month's incidents reported after fighting began on May 10. In May alone, 387 incidents were reported to the ADL, which Greenblatt said represented a "massive" 148 percent increase over the number reported during the same month in 2020.

"The perpetrators of many of these incidents explicitly referred to the conflict between Israel and Hamas," the report said.

Of the incidents reported to the ADL last year, 1,776 involved antisemitic harassment, a 43 percent increase over the number of harassment incidents reported in 2020. An additional 88 incidents were identified as assault, and the 853 others were vandalism.

The ADL identified New York as the state with the greatest number of antisemitic incidents at 416, with New Jersey second with 370 incidents. California was the only other state to have more than 300 reported incidents, while 18 states had fewer than 10. North Dakota and West Virginia were tied with the fewest reported incidents, with one reported in each state last year.

Scott Richman, the director of the ADL's New York and New Jersey regional office, addressed his area's high numbers during the ADL's Tuesday webinar. The two states' combined total for 2021 was equivalent to an average of about two antisemitic incidents per day, he noted.

"This is no surprise to me," Richman said. "I see it every day."

Despite widely-held beliefs that extremists are responsible for the bulk of antisemitic incidents, Segal said this was not the case for the 2021 report. Only 18 percent of last year's incidents were attributed to "known extremist groups or individuals inspired by extremist ideology," the report said. The majority of incidents are carried out by "unknown" individuals or "average Joes and average Janes," Segal said.

"That, to me, speaks to the normalization of antisemitism as a belief and as a tactic," Segal added. "And that is just as insidious and just as concerning."