Jewish Community Senses Antisemitism Coming 'From All Directions': Jonathan Greenblatt

Anti-Defamation League (ADL) CEO and National Director Jonathan Greenblatt said the Jewish community is "very concerned" amid the uptick in antisemitic incidents reported in the U.S.

Speaking with Newsweek editor-at-large Naveed Jamali for a Tuesday episode of Newsweek's The Daily Break podcast, which Jamali hosts, Greenblatt said antisemitism is "indisputably on the rise" across the country.

"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 said.

Greenblatt appeared on the podcast just days after a man held people hostage for hours at a synagogue in Texas. The episode began by touching on the incident, which Greenblatt described as "a profoundly frightening event," as part of a wider conversation about the prevalence of antisemitism.

"I think any time a sacred space is violated, such as a mosque or a church or a synagogue, it reminds us of our particular vulnerability," Greenblatt said. "When the supermarkets where we shop or the places where we pray are under siege, the schools where we send our children are under siege—it's a deeply terrifying thing."

Less than 2 percent of people living in the U.S. are Jewish, according to Pew Research Center's Religious Landscape Study. But anti-Jewish crimes reported in the U.S. accounted for nearly 60 percent of all religious-based hate crimes reported to authorities in 2020, FBI data showed.

"Those numbers are wildly out of proportion," Greenblatt said.

The ADL publishes an annual report documenting antisemitic incidents across the country. The report for 2020 said 2,024 incidents of antisemitic harassment, vandalism and assault were reported throughout the year. Though the total represents a decline from incidents reported the year prior, 2020 was "still the third-highest year on record since ADL began tracking antisemitic incidents in 1979," a summary for the report said.

Greenblatt noted that antisemitism, which he said some consider to be the "oldest hatred," has been around "for thousands of years" and continues to survive in digital settings.

"Antisemitism isn't a bug; it's a feature of the public conversation," Greenblatt said. "But it's not one that we should tolerate."

Antisemitism is seen by some as a "canary in the coal mine," Greenblatt said.

"It starts with the Jews, Naveed, but it never ends with the Jews. And I think that's true," he told Jamali, adding that antisemitism can be "a sign of societal decay."

"In this case, I would suggest antisemitism is not a Jewish problem. Of course it is, but it's really an American problem," Greenblatt said. "And as America is able to take care of this long-beleaguered minority, so that will determine if America's ultimately able to take care of itself."

Jonathan Greenblatt antisemitism The Daily Break podcast
Jonathan Greenblatt of the ADL said during an episode of Newsweek's "The Daily Break" that antisemitism is "indisputably on the rise." Above, the Anti-Defamation League logo is photographed during an ADL Entertainment Industry Dinner at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on May 24, 2017. in Beverly Hills, California. Ari Perilstein/Getty Images