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New report says most American Jews feel less safe in US after Israel-Hamas war

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More than three-quarters of American Jews feel less safe as a Jewish person in the U.S. and nearly half have changed their behavior as a result, according to a report on antisemitism released Tuesday by the American Jewish Committee.

The AJC’s State of Antisemitism in American 2023 report comes four months after Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel and a subsequent wave of rising antisemitism worldwide. It found that those who feel less safe are far more likely than those who don’t to see U.S. antisemitism as a serious, worsening issue and the status of American Jews as less secure than a year ago.

“No one should be fearful of being targeted or harassed for being Jewish when walking down the street, going to school, or being at work,” said Ted Deutch, the American Jewish Committee’s CEO. “This isn’t a new problem, but the explosion of antisemitism since Oct. 7 demands that we take collective action now.”

The report is based on data collected in a survey of 1,528 American Jews aged 18 and older in October and November 2023. The AJC adjusted its survey to add questions in response to the Oct. 7 events to measure awareness of the attacks and the resulting impact on respondents’ feelings of personal safety.

“While large majorities of U.S. Jews have consistently viewed antisemitism as a problem in the United States, 2023 reflects an uptick in the share who hold that opinion,” the authors of the report wrote. “Moreover, the 2023 results show a sharp increase in the share of U.S. Jews who see antisemitism as a very serious problem in the United States.”

Changing behavior, hiding their identity

According to the report, 78% of American Jews said they felt less safe because of the Oct. 7 attack, and 46% said they’d changed their behavior as a result, compared to just under 40% who said they had done so in 2021 and 2022.

Three in 10 said they had avoided posting online content identifying them as Jewish or revealing their views on Jewish issues, while a quarter (26%) said they had refrained from publicly wearing or displaying items identifying them as Jews or had avoided certain physical spaces or situations out of concern for their personal safety or comfort.

About four in 10 Jews in the U.S. (39%) said they had personally seen incidents of antisemitism or heard antisemitic comments in the past year, while three in four (74%) considered antisemitism at least a “somewhat serious” problem in the U.S.

More than six in 10 (63%) of Jewish adults described their community’s status in the U.S. as “less secure than a year ago,” reflecting an increase of more than 20 percentage points, the report said. One in five (19%) said businesses in their community had been the target of antisemitism during the past five years.

About a quarter of young Jews on college campuses, where incidents spiked in the wake of the attack, said they had avoided wearing or displaying items identifying them as Jewish, expressing views on Israel on campus or with classmates, or had been told they could not miss class for Jewish holidays.

The committee said it was calling on Congress and President Joe Biden to take necessary steps to implement the White House’s U.S. National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism, including appointment of a national coordinator.

“Now that we have this road map, we need to be sure to use it,” Deutch said. “The strategy can no longer be seen as a recommendation, but rather a requirement.” The group’s first such report was conducted in 2019, a year after a gunman’s attack at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh.

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