The number of antisemitic incidents in the United States decreased last year as lockdown measures reduced physical encounters but the total remained near record highs seen in recent years, the Anti-Defamation League said on Tuesday.
Still, last year’s number of antisemitic incidents was the third highest ADL has recorded since it began tracking such incidents in 1979. Antisemitic incidents in the United States have risen steadily in recent years, with the highest number recorded in 2019 when ADL identified 2,107 anti-Jewish incidents, including a spate of deadly assaults on Jewish communities around the country.
The pandemic “didn’t stop hate, it merely reshaped it,” said ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt. “Despite shifts in daily interactions, despite the fact that people were shut in in their homes, despite the fact that we were quarantined across the country, 2020 saw the third highest number of antisemitic incidents ever recorded at ADL with an average of more than five such acts per day for every day of the year.”
The report came on the two-year anniversary of a deadly attack on a synagogue in Poway, California, where a gunman opened fire during a Passover service, killing 60-year-old Lori Kaye and wounding three others. The gunman, John Earnest, 19, was charged with one count of murder and three counts of attempted murder.
Of the more than 2,000 incidents recorded last year, ADL attributed 331, or 16% of the total, to extremist groups or individuals. The majority involved the dissemination of antisemitic fliers, banners, stickers or written messages, with the New Jersey European Heritage Association, which ADL describes as a white supremacist group, responsible for 110 incidents.
Cases of harassment increased. There were 1,242 incidents of harassment, a 10% increase from 2019, and 751 incidents of vandalism, most involving the display of swastikas, down 18% on the year.
Jewish graves and cemeteries were vandalized 11 times last year. In January, headstones in two Jewish cemeteries in Hartford, Connecticut, were vandalized and toppled, the ADL said.
The number of assaults on American Jews dropped by nearly half, from 61 in 2019 to 31 in 2020, targeting 41 victims. Nearly half of the assaults took place in New York City, home of the largest Jewish population outside of Israel.
Last November, in the New York City borough of Brooklyn, a Jewish man was hit by a passerby who said, “I got a chance to slap a Jew,” according to the report.
In December, a Jewish man was assaulted near the University of Kentucky. A driver ran over his leg yelling antisemitic slurs, according to the report.
Unlike 2019, when five American Jews were killed in antisemitic assaults, there were no fatalities last year.
Attacks on Jewish institutions such as synagogues and Jewish community centers and schools increased by 40% to 327 last year. Of the 264 incidents of harassment at Jewish institutions, 114 were disruptive intrusions known as “Zoombombings” targeting religious, educational or cultural webinars.
The number of antisemitic incidents at non-Jewish schools and universities fell by 61%. But as schools move to reopen, antisemitic incidents at those institutions will likely return close to the levels seen in recent years, according to the report.
The audit is based on information provided by victims, law enforcement and community leaders, and supplemented by media reports.