The U.S. Jewish community experienced near-historic levels of anti-Semitism in 2018, including a doubling of anti-Semitic assaults and the single deadliest attack against the Jewish community in American history, according to new data from ADL (the Anti-Defamation League). ADL’s annual Audit of Anti-Semitic incidents recorded a total of 1,879 attacks against Jews and Jewish institutions across the country in 2018, the third-highest year on record since ADL started tracking such data in the 1970s.
In a year marked by the white supremacist shooting spree at a Pittsburgh synagogue, which claimed 11 lives, and punctuated by a dramatic surge in white supremacist propaganda activity nationwide, ADL’s Audit identified 59 people who were victims of anti-Semitic assaults in 2018, up from 21 in 2017. While the overall number of incidents represents a 5 percent decline from 1,986 incidents reported in 2017, the number of incidents last year remained at near-historic levels – 48 percent higher than the total for 2016 and 99 percent higher than in 2015.
ADL’s annual tally of incidents nationwide found that anti-Semitic assaults, harassment and vandalism are still pervasive in the U.S. All but four states experienced anti-Semitic incidents. In addition to the October mass shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, 2018 saw high levels of white supremacist activity, including propaganda on college campuses and in communities, and hateful robocalls aimed at voters.
ADL’s Audit classifies all incidents into three categories: assault, harassment and vandalism. Of the total incidents reported in 2018:
Assaults: 39 incidents, marking an increase of 105 percent from the 19 incidents reported in 2017. Those incidents affected 59 victims, up from 21 in 2017, and include the 11 fatalities and two injured congregants in Pittsburgh.
Harassment: 1,066 incidents of anti-Semitic harassment were reported to ADL last year, a 5 percent increase from 1,015 in 2017, and a 48 percent increase from 721 in 2016.
Vandalism: 774 incidents of anti-Semitic vandalism were recorded in 2018, down 19 percent from 952 in 2017, but up 52 percent from 510 in 2016.
While most anti-Semitic incidents are not directly perpetrated by extremists, there are interesting connections between the trends. In 2018, 249 acts of anti-Semitism (13 percent of the total incidents) were attributable to known extremist groups or individuals inspired by extremist ideology, making it the highest level of anti-Semitic incidents with known connections to extremists or extremist groups since 2004. Of those, 139 incidents were part of fliering campaigns by white supremacist groups. Another 80 were anti-Semitic robocalls allegedly perpetrated by anti-Semitic podcaster Scott Rhodes in support of the candidacy of Patrick Little, an unabashed white supremacist who ran an unsuccessful campaign for U.S. Senate in California.
The Audit also noted spikes at several points during the year. The final three months of the year were unusually active, with 255 incidents in October, 300 in November and 194 in December. The high number in October included 45 propaganda distributions by white supremacists. The incidents in November and December immediately followed the Pittsburgh massacre, which likely drew more attention to anti-Semitic activities. Incidents first spiked in May, when 209 anti-Semitic acts were reported, including 80 anti-Semitic robocalls sent by white supremacists, which targeted Jewish individuals and institutions with harassing messages.
Incidents took place in nearly every state across the country but, consistent with prior reports, the states with the highest number of incidents tend to be those with the largest Jewish populations. These include California (341); New York (340); New Jersey (200) and Massachusetts (144). Combined, these states accounted for more than half of the total incidents in the U.S.
Anti-Semitic incidents took place in a wide variety of locations, including places of business, private homes, public areas such as parks and streets, Jewish institutions and schools:
- At private businesses and retail establishments: 211 (5% increase from 201 in 2017)
- In cemeteries: 8 (up from 7 in 2017)
- In homes: 276 (16% increase from 238 in 2017)
- Incidents on college campuses: 201 (1% decrease from 204 in 2017)
- Incidents in K-12 schools: 344 (25% decrease from 457 in 2017)
- Incidents at Jewish institutions: 265 (23% decrease from 342 in 2017)