Antisemitism is a growing concern in the U.S. among the Jewish community, but Jewish advocates say workplaces can play a role in easing these fears.
More than 40 percent of 1,507 adults of Jewish religion or background feel their status in the U.S. is less secure in 2022 than it was a year earlier, according to a new survey by the American Jewish Committee (AJC). About 80 percent felt antisemitism is more problematic than it was four years ago.
"When we first conducted this research in 2019, I was surprised by the number of American Jews experiencing antisemitism," said Holly Huffnagle, AJC's U.S. director for combating antisemitism. "The results this year didn't surprise me as much, because unfortunately, we've seen this consistent upward trend."
Among the findings:
- Nearly 90 percent of Jewish participants said they believe antisemitism is a societal problem—a percentage that has increased each year since 2019.
- 63 percent said they see law enforcement as appropriately responsive when it comes to antisemitism, a substantial drop from 81 percent in 2019.
- 26 percent reported being personally targeted by antisemitism in 2022—a number that hasn't declined since 2019.
- 23 percent reported that, in the last year, they've avoided publicly wearing, carrying or displaying items that might identify them as Jewish out of fear of antisemitism—a slight increase from the previous year.
- 19 percent of young Jews between ages 18 and 29 said they were targeted by an antisemitic remark or post online or through social media in the past 12 months.
A recent report by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) revealed that more than 2,700 reported antisemitic incidents occurred in the U.S. in 2021—the highest mark since the ADL started tracking these incidents in 1979.
Incidents at Jewish community centers and synagogues were up by 61 percent, incidents at K-12 schools increased 106 percent and incidents on college campuses rose 21 percent.
Jewish Hate on Social Media Increasing
The AJC report also showed that non-Jewish participants were more familiar with the term "antisemitism" than they were in last year's report. Huffnagle thinks the spread of antisemitism in the media could have contributed to this increase in awareness.
"I think antisemitic remarks by media figures like [musician] Kanye West has contributed to that," she said. "He spread antisemitism to his millions of followers, which is three or four times more than there are Jews in the world."
A separate report by the ADL revealed that at least 30 antisemitic incidents in recent months directly referenced West, who refers to himself as Ye. These incidents include workplace vandalism, targeted harassment and campus propaganda distributions.
From October 2022 to February 2023, more than 10,000 Twitter mentions used or referenced "Ye is Right," according to the ADL report. These posts have reached at least 6 million users on Twitter, garnering more than 22,000 likes and more than 5,000 retweets.
Huffnagle said that online antisemitism can have offline repercussions, particularly in the workplace.
"Many employed American Jews have avoided posting content online that would identify them as Jews or reveal their views on Jewish issues out of fear of antisemitism," she said. "Some of these same American Jews are also among the almost 1 in 10 [based on the AJC report] who have felt uncomfortable or unsafe in their workplace because they are Jewish."
Companies Must Condemn Antisemitism
Jonathan Segal, an employment law attorney in Philadelphia, offered several ways for organizations to do their part in combating antisemitism:
Define antisemitism. It is more than animus against Jews. Antisemitism is a conspiracy theory in which Jews are perceived as inferior but also have control they use to their benefit and to other groups' detriment.
Condemn it, too. Employers should say the specific words and avoid hiding behind general statements.
Train managers to spot antisemitism. Include antisemitism in management training on discrimination so they understand the potential for conscious and unconscious bias.
Reinforce anti-harassment policies. Ignoring antisemitism can damage an organization's culture. Prohibit the engagement of conduct that is hostile to stereotypes or is insensitive to Jewish workers or other groups.
Take prompt action against antisemitism. If workers or managers discriminate, hold them accountable as companies would for any other form of discrimination.
This isn't just a Jewish issue. More than 90 percent of all respondents to the AJC survey said antisemitism is not just a problem for Jews. Inform the workforce about the prevalence of antisemitism and the societal desire to eradicate it.
Condemning antisemitism and promoting Jewish inclusion—such as allowing time off during Jewish holidays—can help Jewish employees feel more comfortable coming out of what Segal calls "a Jewish closet" and increase their sense of belonging.
"DE&I silence on antisemitism not only may result in Jewish employees feeling less of a sense of belonging but also may result in the DE&I initiative losing some credibility in the workplace," Segal added. "Because antisemitism is alarmingly high, it is appropriate for employers to focus on it."