Poll confirms worrying spike in antisemitism | Thursday Morning Coffee

Pa. had highest incidence of white supremacist propaganda in 2021

By: - February 23, 2023 7:04 am

The Tree of Life synagogue in Squirrel Hill, Pittsburgh. (Capital-Star photo)

More than four years after the deadly shootings at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue that claimed the lives of 11 people, a majority of American Jews and most U.S. adults say they believe antisemitism remains a problem, and has only increased over the last five years.

The polling data released by the American Jewish Committee, comes as antisemitic hate crimes have risen in cities nationwide, according to Axios, which was first to report the data, and as Pennsylvania has become ground zero for white supremacist propaganda.

In separate samples, pollsters tested the opinions of both American Jewish adults and non-Jewish U.S. adults.

Nearly nine in 10 American Jews (89%) who participated in the poll said antisemitism was either somewhat of a problem, or a serious problem, according to the poll. And 82% said they believed the incidence of antisemitism had increased over the last five years.

Those same respondents (89%) told pollsters that antisemitism does not solely affect Jews, but rather “it affects society as a whole.”

The findings echoed the sentiments of civil rights advocates, who have argued that fighting the forces of hate is a team sport.

“No one and no community can go it alone. In fact, the whole point of hate is to isolate and to other, to make the target feel alone,” Shira Goodman, of the Anti-Defamation League, and Andrea Custis, the past president of the Urban League of Philadelphia, wrote in a commentary piece the Capital-Star published in January.  

“When we react to hate by retreating further into silos and emphasizing our divisions, we hand the haters a victory,” Goodman and Custis wrote.

The two polls, both conducted in late 2022, included the opinions of 1,507 American Jewish adults and 1,004 American adults, with margins of error of 3.4% and 3.8%, respectively.

(Source: American Jewish Committee)
(Source: American Jewish Committee)

The poll drives home the prevalence of antisemitic speech on social media, with 85 percent younger American Jews, aged 18-29 saying they were the target of antisemitism online, or had seen it online at least once over the last 12 months.

That finding tracks with separate research by the Anti-Defamation LeagueAxios reported, which found that the incidence of white supremacist propaganda “remained at historic levels” in 2021.

Researchers charted a national average of 13 incidents a day, with a 27% rise in propaganda targeting Jews and Jewish institutions.

Pennsylvania reported the highest levels nationwide that year (473 incidents), followed by Virginia (375), Texas (327), Massachusetts (272), Washington State (228), Maryland (217) and New York State (212).

“White supremacists more frequently are resorting to hate propaganda as a tactic to spread their noxious ideas and recruit new membership,” ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said upon the data’s release last March.

“It’s particularly disturbing that at a time of when violent antisemitic assaults are on the rise, these groups are dialing-up their hateful rhetoric against Jews and canvassing entire communities with hate literature. This is an alarming trend that needs to be checked, now,” Greenblatt said.

(Source: American Jewish Committee)

And when it comes to the broader U.S. population, nearly seven in 10 U.S. adult respondents (69%) said they were familiar with the term antisemitism, and 68% saying they believed it was a problem.

Slightly less than half (47%) of all U.S. adults, however, said they believed antisemitism had increased nationwide over the last five years, and that nearly two-thirds (64%) said they personally had not seen any antisemitic incidents either online or in person.

Of those who had seen such incidents, more than eight in 10 (82%) said they had seen them online, according to the poll.

“The forces that power antisemitism and racism are the same. Ignorance, grievances and their imagined sources, fear of the other, stereotypes and conspiracy theories can all morph into dangerous rhetoric that can transform into violence,” Goodman and Custis wrote for the Capital-Star last month.  “Manufacturing a narrative that amplifies our differences or divides our communities only benefits those who hate all of us.”

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John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.