The director of the FBI has said the Jewish community in the United States is “getting hit from all sides” and “desperately” needs further support from the agency amid an apparent uptick in antisemitic attacks.
In response to a question by US Congressman Josh Gottheimer on a recently thwarted attack on synagogues in New Jersey, FBI director Christopher Wray said Thursday that the agency was attempting to address the issue by raising the threat of antisemitism to a “national priority.”
“Antisemitism and violence that comes out of it is a persistent and present fact,” Wray said.
He said that some 63 percent of religious hate crimes were motivated by antisemitism, “and that’s targeting a group that makes up about 2.4% of the American population.”
“It’s a community that deserves and desperately needs our support because it’s getting hit from all sides,” Wray added.
Wray said threats of hate crimes and domestic terrorism related to antisemitism had been “elevated to a national threat priority.”
He added that the FBI had also been working proactively, foiling a planned hate crime against a synagogue in Colorado. Noting the foiled attack in New Jersey, Wray said he was “pleased we were able to make an arrest.”
Federal prosecutors charged a New Jersey teenager with extremist Islamist views over the threat that led to a sweeping FBI warning for the state’s synagogues earlier this month.
Omar Alkattoul, 18, had pledged allegiance to the leader of Islamic State and researched past mass shootings and how to obtain firearms, according to the criminal complaint against him filed last week by the US Attorney’s Office in New Jersey. The complaint alleged that Alkattoul published a manifesto online that had been written as though he had already carried out an attack.
New Jersey is home to an estimated 500,000 Jews, with major Orthodox population hubs in Lakewood, Passaic, Toms River and Teaneck, and congregations of all denominations in most cities and towns across the state.
In April, an antisemitic attacker went on a rampage in Lakewood, stabbing and running over several Jews, putting the community on edge. The suspect has since been charged with federal hate crimes.
In 2019, New Jersey saw one of the worst antisemitic attacks in recent years when two attackers opened fire in a kosher supermarket in Jersey City, killing the Jewish owner and a Jewish customer as well as a store employee.
There have been multiple attacks on synagogues in the United States in recent years, including the 2018 shooting at the Tree of Life congregation in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, which killed 11 people — the deadliest attack ever on the Jewish community in the United States.
A report released by the Anti-Defamation League, found the highest levels of reported antisemitic events in the US during 2021 since the organization started tracking the issue in the 1970s.
Agencies contributed to this report.