American Jews Feel Less Safe, New Survey Finds

More Jews feel unsafe in the U.S. than last year, according to a newly released report by the American Jewish Committee.

The AJC’s fourth annual “State of Antisemitism” report, released Monday morning Feb. 13, found that 41 percent of American Jews surveyed don’t feel secure about their status in the U.S., a 10 percent jump from the AJC’s 2021 survey.

“An increase in this number by a third in just a year, is simply unacceptable and is a major indicator of a larger problem,” said Jacob Millner, the AJC Director of the Minneapolis-St. Paul office. “[This report] demonstrates consistent and mounting evidence that antisemitism is a persistent and real issue in America today. We see consistency over the years and that is not good.”

The AJC contracted with the research firm SSRS to conduct two surveys of “American Attitudes about Antisemitism” compiled into the report – one survey of Jewish Americans, and another survey of American adults that asked about their attitudes and knowledge of antisemitism. Both surveys asked for opinions on the current state of antisemitism in the United States. 

The surveys, though, are largely consistent with previous iterations. The report says: “The Jewish public continues to see antisemitism as a problem in the United States by a wide margin, and the general consensus is that problem has increased over the past five years.” 

What hasn’t changed much includes: Nine in 10 Jews believe antisemitism is a very serious problem, four in five Jews say antisemitism has increased over the last five years, and nearly half of Jews say antisemitism is taken less seriously than other forms of hate and bigotry.

Nearly 80 percent of respondents say antisemitism has increased in the past five years. More people are familiar with the term “antisemitism” than last year – 69 percent, up four points from last year’s survey. 

Of the general population survey, 68 percent believe antisemitism is a problem in the U.S., up from 60% last year, and 91 percent of U.S. adults believe antisemitism is a problem for everyone and affects everyone as a whole.

New areas of questioning

Two new areas that the AJC survey covered were Jewish issues on campus and workplace antisemitism. The campus issue got 350 responses from people who are students in college, those who’d been in college for the last two years, or the parents of current or recent students.

Their responses found more than a quarter experienced difficulty taking time off from class to observe Jewish holidays, more than a fifth avoided wearing or carrying things that could identify them as Jewish, and 18 percent said they’ve felt uncomfortable or unsafe at a campus event because they’re Jewish.

With workplace antisemitism, one-third of those surveyed who are employed said they had experienced one of those issues in the last year, 22 percent avoided expressing their views on Israel, 10 percent avoided something that would I.D. them as Jewish; 8 percent felt unsafe or uncomfortable at work because they are Jewish.

Midwest, national numbers similar

The survey, when looked at from a regional perspective, finds that attitudes toward antisemitism are fairly consistent nationally vs. the Midwest.

  • 87 percent surveyed in the Midwest find antisemitism to be a problem in the U.S., compared to 89 percent nationally.
  • 78 percent said antisemitism has increased over the past five years and 18 percent said it stayed the same in the Midwest, while 82 percent said it increased16 percent said it stayed the same nationally.
  • More Midwest respondents had been a target of an antisemitic remark in person than nationally (24 percent-20 percent), but 5 percent fewer regionally were the target of an antisemitic remark on online or on social media.

Other key findings:

  • Similar to last year’s survey, nearly four in 10 U.S. Jews changed their behavior out of concern for their safety. Some of those behaviors include: Not wearing a kippah or Star of David in public, avoiding certain places and events, or posting content online that might identify them as Jewish. Those who have personally experienced antisemitism are twice as likely to have avoided one of those behaviors. 
  • Social Media remains problematic: More than two-thirds of Jews had seen antisemitic content online, including 57 percent who saw it more than once. Of those who saw, 17 percent say those incidents made them feel physically threatened. Twitter (45 percent) and Facebook (43 percent) were where respondents experienced online antisemitism the most. About one in five saw content on YouTube and Instagram.

“No one should feel the need to alter their behavior because they are Jewish,” Millner said. “This is wholly unacceptable.”