A disturbing report from the Anti-Defamation League finds anti-Semitic incidents have reached historic highs across the U.S.
The ADL says that the 2,717 incidents it recorded targeting American Jews in 2021, was the highest since it began tracking such data in 1979.
The Midwest chapter of the ADL which focuses on Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, the Dakotas, and Wisconsin reported a total of 175 anti-Semitic incidents in 2021 — up 62% from the 108 cases it recorded the year before — and more than 200% higher than just five years ago.
In Illinois, there was a 15% increase anti-Semitic incidents from 2020 to 2021 and a 430% increase since 2016.
But despite the record number of recorded incidents, Midwest Regional Director for the ADL, David Goldenberg, thinks the true numbers are even higher.
“We know that FBI data and statistics show that 40% or so events of all hate crimes don’t go reported at all,” says Goldenberg. “And so whenever we see hate crimes data in general, we know that it’s under reported.”
Goldenberg believes there are several factors spurring the surge in anti-Jewish hate. The rise of hate speech and conspiracy theories online is of particular concern.
“The manifestation of hate and lies and misinformation online, particularly on social media, we know is directly contributing to anti-Semitic incidents and other incidents of hate,” says Goldenberg. He adds that that “the lack of civil discourse that exists in the United States today is contributing a great deal as well.”
The ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinians can also fuel the rise of anti-Semitism here in the United States, says Goldenberg.
“It’s a dangerous cycle and it’s frankly a very scary one,” says Goldenberg. “And I say dangerous not in a rhetorical sense. We know it’s an actual dangerous cycle where people are getting hurt.”
Erez Cohen, executive director of Illini Hillel which serves the social, cultural and religious needs of Jewish students at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, says his organization is seeing a rising number of anti-Semitic incidents on campus.
“On the ADL website alone you can see that in 2021 there has been 10 cases of anti-Semitic activities that were reported to the ADL and unfortunately there’s been at least a dozen more anti-Semitic occurrences that haven’t been reported to the ADL,” says Cohen.
Cohen says that recently during the celebration of Passover, a group of students yelled anti-Semitic slogans and at least one threw rocks at Jewish students outside Hillel.
“They called for intifada, which is an obvious call for violence and mayhem against Jews, and then they chanted for ‘one solution’ which echoes a famous call for a final solution from Nazi Germany as a solution against the Jews,” says Cohen.
He notes that anti-Semitism often unites extremists from both the political left and right and does immense harm to Jewish students.
“It causes Jewish students at the university to be afraid to identify themselves as Jewish,” says Cohen. “It basically silences part of their identity that’s very critical to them. They don’t want to wear their necklaces with Jewish stars, they’re afraid of wearing the sweatshirts with Greek letters of their Jewish fraternity or sorority…. they basically stopped identifying (as Jewish). And to do this to a minority is a horrible act of silencing their voice.”
According to Cohen, the university administration’s response to this rising tide of hate has so far been inadequate.
“The university like anyone else needs to step up and be able to support their students. Anti-Semitism, like any hatred against any other group, is not something that can be solved alone by the group experiencing it, but it needs the help of people that have the power to make a difference,” says Cohen. “And we see on college campuses — and the University of Illinois is unfortunately not the only one – anti-Semitism is spiking on all campuses in America.”
Goldenberg says that the rise in anti-Semitic incidents has many Jews seriously worried.
“There’s no question about it that the American Jewish community feels under siege today.”
Note: this story will be updated with video.