This month, AJC released our 2023 State of Antisemitism Report. In its fifth year, the report measures experiences and perceptions of antisemitism among American Jews and the wider public. The news is not good. And we are not surprised.

A few numbers to consider about American Jews:

  • 63% feel the status of Jews in our country is less secure than a year ago – up from 41% last year. This figure has doubled over the last two years.
  • 78% report feeling less safe after the 10/7 attacks.
  • 25% report being the personal target of antisemitsm. The number rises to 36% among Jews ages 18-29. 
  • 46% have changed their behavior at least once because of concern about a potential antisemitic incident – up from 38% in 2020. 20% feel unsafe attending their Jewish institutions (synagogues, JCCs, etc.) because of antisemitism.

These numbers are far more alarming when talking about college students. 40% have avoided public displays of their Jewish identity or their Zionism and 24% have felt uncomfortable or unsafe at campus events because they are Jewish.

None of this is surprising given the climate in which we find ourselves. How many of us would feel safe discussing Israel or other Jewish issues on the Metro or in another public place? I would wager fewer than last year.

There is some good news. Most of the general public agreed that antisemitism is on the rise and is a serious problem for all Americans to address. Antisemitism is not a Jewish problem, it’s a societal problem. And Americans on all sides of the political and religious spectrum should be looking at themselves. Many people look at antisemitism with blinders – “it’s the other political or religious tribe that is the problem.” Rather, people must look in the mirror, learn more about antisemitism and root it out amongst their own. It’s very hard and incredibly necessary.

Support from non-Jews is essential, but not enough. 

For generations, in America and around the world, Jews have opted to hide our identity for justifiable fear of persecution. Jews who “wore their Jewish identity on their sleeves” were physically attacked and worse. But the Holocaust teaches us that in the end, it didn’t matter if you were fully assimilated. The Nazis came anyway.

We must choose another option. It isn’t always successful, but building our sense of Jewish pride and identity is critical. Respect is earned by people who stand up for themselves. By hiding, changing our behavior, and living in fear we gain nothing and send a message to our children that Jewish identity is an albatross; when, in fact, our identity, tradition, and heritage is something to be celebrated.

I remember walking through the streets of DC after the Israel rally in November. Jews from around the country walked on the sidewalks with their kippot, Israeli flags, and Jewish themed t-shirts that proudly proclaimed their identity. I confess that I had some trepidation. But as I watched the reaction of the other pedestrians, I felt better. People showed respect and those who displayed animus were only a small minority.

They say change comes with persistence and time. 3000 years of hatred won’t go away soon. It may never fully go away. But, by standing up for ourselves, we send a strong message that Jewish people are a strong part of our American community, proud of who we are, what we’ve accomplished, and what we’ve given to the world. 

Let’s stand up together and push back on antisemitism with everything we’ve got. 

Am Yisrael Chai.

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