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Four in ten American Jews felt less secure in 2022 than year before — survey

A quarter of respondents to AJC poll say they’d been directly targeted with antisemitic expressions, either in person or on social media, while 3% report physical attacks

A law enforcement vehicle is seen near the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue on January 16, 2022, in Colleyville, Texas. (Brandon Bell/Getty Images/AFP)
A law enforcement vehicle is seen near the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue on January 16, 2022, in Colleyville, Texas. (Brandon Bell/Getty Images/AFP)

More than four in ten Jews in the United States feel their status in America is less secure than it was a year ago, according to a new survey by the American Jewish Committee.

The survey, conducted in the fall of 2022, was released Monday by the American Jewish Committee, a prominent Jewish advocacy organization.

The survey was taken in a year of high-profile incidents of antisemitism, including a hostage-taking at a Texas synagogue and anti-Jewish statements shared by celebrities on social media. Former US president Donald Trump dined with two openly antisemitic guests, Kanye West and Nick Fuentes, drawing criticism from his own Jewish supporters.

According to the AJC survey, 41 percent of the respondents said the status of Jews in the US is less secure than it was the year before, while 55% said it was the same. Only 4% thought it was more secure.

Those who felt less secure attributed the feeling to a perceived rise in antisemitic attacks and violence (27%), the sense that antisemitism and racism are more overt and accepted (27%) and the perceived rise of white supremacist groups (17%), among other factors.

The results show anxieties increasing since a comparable survey in 2021, when 31% of respondents thought their status was less secure than a year earlier. The percentage in 2020 was 43%.

File: US President Donald Trump meets with rapper Kanye West, right, in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC, on October 11, 2018. (Photo by SAUL LOEB / AFP)

Four in five Jews said in the 2022 survey that antisemitism has grown in the past five years; nearly half said it’s taken less seriously than other forms of bigotry or hate.

A quarter of the respondents said they had been directly targeted by antisemitic expressions, either in person or on social media, with 3% reporting a physical attack. Nearly four in 10 changed their behavior to lower risks to their safety.

Similarly, nearly four in ten reported avoiding visible expressions of Jewishness in public, such as wearing a skullcap. Smaller percentages reported taking similar steps on campus or at work.

Of the Jews surveyed in 2022, 63% said that they see law enforcement as appropriately responsive when it comes to antisemitism, a substantial drop from 2019 when that number was 81%.

ACJ separately polled Americans overall, 68% of whom said they saw antisemitism in 2022 as a serious problem, up from 60% in 2021. In the survey of exclusively Jewish Americans, 89% said antisemitism was a serious problem in 2022, virtually the same as the 90% who responded that way in 2021.

Nick Fuentes, far-right activist, holds a rally at the Lansing Capitol, in Lansing, Michigan, November 11, 2020. (Nicole Hester/ Ann Arbor News via AP)

The Jewish American study reached respondents through a mix of modes and had a margin of error of 3.4%. The survey of US adults polled 1,004 respondents through a web survey, conducted October 10 to 18, 2022, around the same time the Kanye West controversy was making headlines. It had a margin of error of 3.8%.

News of antisemitic incidents surfaces almost daily in the US. Earlier this month, for example, numerous antisemitic flyers were distributed in suburban Atlanta, including at the home of Georgia’s only Jewish state legislator.

Representative Esther Panitch of Georgia, a freshman Democrat, denounced the flyers from the floor of the House of Representatives, with dozens of colleagues surrounding her to show solidarity.

“This weekend, it was my turn to be targeted,” Panitch said. “Unfortunately, it’s not the first time to be afraid as a Jew in the United States.”

Antisemitic fliers seen in Georgia in February, 2023. (Esther Panitch/Twitter)

On Thursday, Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff took his campaign against antisemitism to the United Nations, urging diplomats from many nations to speak out against the rising global hatred of Jews and stressing: “Silence is not an option.”

Emhoff pointed to celebrity comedians too often using antisemitism “to draw cheap laughs, high profile entertainers and politicians openly spouting tired antisemitic tropes (and) others making comments laced with not so subtle innuendo.”

Among the most dramatic antisemitic incidents in 2022 was the January hostage standoff at Congregation Beth Israel synagogue in Colleyville, Texas, a suburb of Forth Worth.

A pistol-wielding British man took four people at the synagogue hostage and held them for 10 hours before they escaped. The captor was killed by the FBI.

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