As International Holocaust Remembrance Day approaches, many Jewish individuals remain stunned by the Oct. 7, 2023, attacks on Israel and the country’s ongoing war with Hamas. The recent rise in antisemitism has exacerbated their stress.
More than 3,200 incidents of antisemitism occurred in the U.S. between Oct. 7, 2023, and Jan. 7, 2024, according to preliminary data recently released by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL)—an increase of 360 percent from the same period last year.
“The American Jewish community is facing a threat level that’s now unprecedented in modern history,” Jonathan Greenblatt, ADL CEO, said in a statement. “It’s shocking that we’ve recorded more antisemitic acts in three months than we usually would in an entire year.”
Among the incidents of antisemitism occurring in a workplace environment:
- At least 505 incidents were reported on college campuses.
- 246 took place in K-12 schools.
- At least 628 incidents occurred against Jewish institutions, such as synagogues and community centers.
On Dec. 21, Amazon suspended an employee who slipped a note into a customer’s order that read, “Death to Zionists,” the ADL noted. Further, a Portland, Ore. woman was arrested in Chicago on Jan. 1 after swastikas were found on a Jewish school and multiple businesses.
“In this difficult moment, antisemitism is spreading and mutating in alarming ways,” Greenblatt said.
Since Oct. 7, an average of nearly 34 antisemitic incidents occurred per day, putting 2023 on track to be the year with the highest number of acts against the Jewish community since the ADL began tracking the statistic in the 1970s.
But even before the Israel-Hamas war, antisemitism was on the rise. According to the ADL, incidents of antisemitism have grown each year since 2020, including incidents at schools and bomb threats toward Jewish institutions.
Jewish Organizations Boost Security Measures
Given the rise of antisemitism even before Oct. 7, many Jewish nonprofit organizations have ramped up their security measures to protect their employees, according to a survey of 18,212 employees by Leading Edge, an organization that helps Jewish nonprofits improve their workplace culture.
“Not only should we keep our teams safe, but we should also keep them informed and empowered so that they personally know what to do in the worst-case scenario of an attack,” said Gali Cooks, president and CEO of Leading Edge. “This will give employees more agency and peace of mind, and our data suggests that it also increases employees’ trust in the organization's leadership.”
Among 15,673 employees at Jewish nonprofits who work outside their home at least part of the week:
- 85 percent said their organization has a plan for how to respond to physical security threats.
- 75 percent said they feel their employer is prepared to act if faced with a physical security threat.
- 14 percent of in-person employees indicated that they do not feel prepared to act in the event of an attack.
Feeling prepared for security threats makes employees more engaged, enabled and confident in their leaders, according to the report.
“Since employee engagement is the single most important metric for successful team cultures,” researchers noted, “this finding shows that security is important even beyond the organization’s basic responsibility to ensure that team members are safe at work.”
The Role of Civility
Jonathan Segal, an employment law attorney in Philadelphia, said civility can serve as a guardrail against harassment and discrimination against Jewish employees as the war between Israel and Hamas progresses.
“It’s one thing to have different views on conflict,” he said. “It’s another to attack those who have a different view from yours in an ad-hominem way.”
Segal recalled how someone recently said that Segal shouldn’t support Israel’s response to Hamas’ attack. Segal called this approach an “uncivil way to start a conversation” and said it would be more effective to say, “I recognize Israel had a right to respond, but I’m struggling with the response. Do you want to talk about it?”
As Segal explained, there’s a difference between disagreeing with Israeli or Palestinian leadership and attacking Israeli or Palestinian people. He urged all workers to avoid blaming Muslim employees for Hamas’ actions and Jewish people for Israel’s response.
Treating others civilly, he added, can play a significant role in supporting the psychological safety of Jewish employees—especially as antisemitism continues to rise.
“There can be two sides to a conflict,” he concluded. “But there are not two sides to antisemitism.”