(JTA) – From Neo-Nazi propaganda campaigns to attacks against Orthodox Jews to threats directed at synagogues, the number of antisemitic incidents in the United States saw a dramatic increase in 2022, according to an annual audit published by the Anti-Defamation League.
The ADL counted 3,697 incidents of harassment, vandalism and assault targeting Jews last year — a 36% increase from the 2,717 recorded in 2021 and by far the highest total since the organization began tallying the data in 1979. The incidents include one fatality — the killing in October of Thomas Meixner, a professor at the University of Arizona who was shot allegedly by a student, in part because the student believed Meixner was Jewish. The tally also includes the hostage situation at a Texas synagogue early in 2022.
The ADL’s audit is the most widely cited and comprehensive source of data on antisemitic incidents in the United States, and its conclusion tracks with a recent report by the FBI showing an increase in hate crimes.
“This data confirms what Jewish communities across the country have felt and seen firsthand – and corresponds with the rise in antisemitic attitudes,” ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said in a statement.
The ADL found that there were increases in several different forms of antisemitism, from incidents at schools and college campuses to antisemitism targeting Orthodox Jews to bomb threats against Jewish institutions.
There was a particularly large spike in propaganda distribution by white supremacist groups. One such group, the Florida-based Goyim Defense League, alone was responsible for at least 492 incidents of propaganda in 2022, 13.3% of the total number of antisemitic incidents tallied in the report. This year, a man accused of shooting two Jews in Los Angeles said he was inspired by a propaganda flier of the type distributed by the group.
One category that saw a decline was antisemitism that involved references to Israel or Zionism. There were 241 incidents of that kind in 2022, a decrease from the 345 recorded in 2021, when a conflict that May between Israel and Hamas in Gaza was accompanied by a spike in attacks on Jews. Incidents revolving around Israel or Zionism represented 6.5% of last year’s total.
The stream of antisemitic comments last fall by the rapper Kanye West, who goes by Ye, also inspired a portion of last year’s antisemitism. Nearly 60 incidents involved direct references to Ye.
A team at the ADL gathered reports from the organization’s regional offices, individual victims, law enforcement, a range of partner organizations and other sources, and then vetted each incident to eliminate duplicates and ensure it matched the organization’s criteria for what constitutes an antisemitic incident, according to Aryeh Tuchman, a senior associate director at the ADL’s Center on Extremism.
The report’s methodology section says it includes incidents in which “circumstances indicate anti-Jewish animus on the part of the perpetrator” or “a reasonable person could plausibly conclude they were being victimized due to their Jewish identity,” as well as incidents involving swastikas. Vandalism of Jewish institutions, and some online antisemitism, could also be included.
“We spend a great deal of time deduplicating, manually reviewing and trying to get as much information as we can about all of the incidents,” Tuchman said.
Tuchman added that the ADL can’t possibly capture every incident that has occurred. He also acknowledged that some of the increase in the number of antisemitic incidents recorded is likely due to the ADL’s ongoing effort to expand its sources of information, which include multiple Jewish religious organizations and security agencies. But he said that any effect of adding new sources is marginal, and that there is overwhelming evidence that antisemitism is sharply on the rise.
“It’s a question that we look at every year: Is there an actual rise in the number of incidents or are we just finding more incidents because we’re looking in more places?” he said. “We’re not getting a huge number of incidents as a result of new data sources — maybe some, but especially with the most serious incidents, there are only a limited number of incidents of synagogues that are vandalized every year.”
Tuchman added, “Where we know we are always undercounting is harassment,” which people are less likely to report.
There were 111 cases of antisemitic assault tallied in the audit, a 26% increase from 2021. Instances of harassment were up 29%, reaching 2,298 last year, and the 1,288 vandalism incidents logged in 2022 represent a 51% increase.
The hostage crisis in Colleyville, Texas, in January 2022 was registered among 589 incidents targeting Jewish institutions last year. Of those, 91 were bomb threats, the highest number since 2017, when synagogues received more than 100 bomb threats, most of which came from a teenager in Israel.