US Jews Afraid to Wear Kippa in Public

Even in America, most say it is no longer “comfortable” to be known as a Jew

By Yossi Aloni | | Topics: Antisemitism
Photo: Nati Shohat/Flash90

A year after the terror attack that killed 11 worshippers in a synagogue in Pittsburgh, an American Jewish Committee (AJC) survey shows an increase in antisemitic attacks against Jews in the US.

According to the extensive survey, 85 percent of American Jews feel that antisemitism in the US in on the increase and a full third are afraid to show signs of being Jewish in public. Forty-seven percent reported that their Jewish synagogue or institution was attacked or threatened, and a quarter of the Jews admitted that they avoid attending events and visiting Jewish sites for fear of their personal safety. Many said that “it is no longer comfortable being Jewish.”

The survey is the first of its kind and scope among Jews in the United States, and was organized by the AJC exactly one year after the murderous attack on the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where 11 Jewish worshippers were murdered on October 27, 2018.

A full 88 percent of the respondents to the survey defined antisemitism as a problem in the US today, and over half reported that a paid security officer or police officers were regularly stationed outside their Jewish institutions.  Twenty-three percent of American Jews say that they have been victims of antisemitism, either physically, by telephone or in a letter. A further 19 percent said that they or someone they knew experienced antisemitism on an academic campus. 

A 76 percent majority of US Jews testify that they are familiar with the BDS movement, and 82 percent of these believe that the movement and Palestinians in general are antisemitic. Many Jewish-Americans see anti-Zionism as antisemitism: 84 percent of the respondents said that denying “Israel the right to exist” is antisemitic. Eighty percent view the statement “The American government supports Israel only because of Jewish money” as antisemitic. And 73 percent believe the idea that “Jewish-Americans are more loyal to Israel than the United States” is antisemitic, as well.

On politics, only 24 percent of the respondents believe that US President Donald Trump is dealing with antisemitism in an acceptable manner. Forty-one percent of respondents consider the Republican Party responsible for the rise in antisemitism, while only 13 percent see the Democratic Party as responsible. An overwhelming 89 percent of those surveyed defined the extreme-right as bearers of antisemitic threats to American Jews; 49 percent of these see the extreme-right as a serious threat. Similarly, 64 percent see the extreme-left as responsible for antisemitism, but only 15 percent as a serious threat. Islamic extremism was held responsible by 85 percent of the Jews who responded, and 27 percent see Islam as a serious threat.

“American Jews cannot ignore the reality of antisemitism in the United States,” said director General of the AJC, David  Harris. “Our survey presents for the first-time a thorough analysis of Jewish-American perceptions and antisemitic experiences in the United States. The hatred is real, comes from a number of sources, and is growing. We must take it seriously, and treat it in a multifaceted and long-term problem,” he said.

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