Antisemitic Hate Crimes Shattered Records in 2021


Last year more Jews were targeted in antisemitic incidents nationwide than any other year on record, according to the Anti-Defamation League, which has been documenting antisemitic crimes since 1979.

Based on statistics from the Department of Justice, Jewish people are by far the most targeted per capita of any religious group in any given year, but the amount of hate-fueled provocations in 2021 dwarfed any previous period by a landslide. A shocking 2,717 antisemitic attacks occurred in 2021 according to the ADL, 34% up from 2,026 in 2020 and 2,107 in the preceding year. Since 2013, the number of attacks has been steadily increasing, aside from 2018 and 2020, which saw slight decreases from the year before them.

The ADL sorted the data into three main categories: There was a 43% jump in harassment, 14% rise in vandalism, and a whopping 167% spike in physical assaults.

The areas most affected are New York and New Jersey, home to the largest population centers of Jewish people in the country, where there was an overall increase of 24% and 25% respectively. In New York, 262 of the 416 incidents reported occurred in New York City, especially in Manhattan and Brooklyn, and 154 occurred in upstate New York, Long Island, Rockland County, and Westchester.

Assault in New York soared 325% from last year, with the highest number of physical abuse – 51 incidents – ever recorded in the state. In one instance, a knife-wielding individual in Manhattan attacked a Chassidic family of three, injuring both the parents and their 1-year-old child. In another attack at a Jewish summer camp in upstate New York, an individual yelled antisemitic slurs and threw fireworks from a passing vehicle at a group of Jewish teenagers. During a single weekend in November, a group of teenagers assaulted multiple Jewish victims, ranging in ages from 3 to 18 in Williamsburg.

Shuls, Jewish schools and other institutions have been vandalized 22 times in New York City, with swastikas spraypainted on them among other forms of defacement; verbal harassment at these places occurred 32 times.

“The alarming uptick in antisemitic incidents in our state should be deeply concerning to all – Jews and those outside of the Jewish community,” said Scott Richman, Regional Director, ADL New York/New Jersey. “The fact that these incidents included an unprecedented number of vicious assaults – frequently targeting visibly Jewish individuals on the streets of New York, including young children, is incredibly disturbing.”

In New Jersey there were 295 incidents overall in 2020; that shot up to 370 in 2021.

“We are alarmed by the dramatic increase in antisemitic incidents in New Jersey – disturbing fact emblematic of a larger national problem,” said Richman. “Jewish communities in New Jersey are dealing with record levels of antisemitism, and ADL is working closely with victims, schools, law enforcement, elected officials, and faith and community leaders to help reverse this trend.”

There was a particular spike in antisemitic incidents nationwide last May, during a heated conflict between Israel and Hamas.

“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,” said Jonathan A. Greenblatt, ADL CEO and National Director. “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.”

The May conflict represented only one of several spikes reported throughout the year and, overall, anti-Israel sentiment did not account for the lion’s share of incidents in 2021. In fact, antisemitic acts also spiked in November and December, times when there was no similar triggering factor.

Almost 18 percent of the incidents last year – at least 484 – were attributable to actions by extremist group members, indicating that the vast majority of antisemitic attacks are carried out by individuals.

White supremacist groups or extremists were responsible for 422 antisemitic propaganda distributions, a 52 percent increase year over year.

Nationally, ADL recorded 155 antisemitic incidents on college and university campuses across the country. This represented a 21% increase relative to the 128 incidents recorded in 2020. Anti-Israel culture on campus often has led to harassment of Jewish college students.

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