Colleyville attack, Holocaust remembrance, and persistent anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism

Some might want to deny it, but anti-Semitism is a huge problem for North American Jewry

By Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS

My heart breaks for the act of anti-Semitic terrorism at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas, but the rise of anti-Semitism worldwide numbs the shock of such events. On Saturday, January 15, 2002, the Reform synagogue in the Dallas Fort-Worth metro area was the latest and one of most high-profile cases of anti-Semitism recently. To the horrors of worshippers following along at the homes, they could see the start of the terrorism inside the sanctuary unfolding on the Congregation’s Livestream. It is the third Shabbat in the last couple of years where American Jews were subjected to violence from the mere act of gathering for prayers and the Saturday morning Torah service. Anti-Semitic attacks are at records highs, but at the same time, so are divisions among Jews or different political and religious views. The timing of the attack was even more tragic, just two days before Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and ten days before International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

However, the hostage-taking at Beth Israel is but one of the most extreme. Still, North America, the United States, and Canada have seen the highest rates of violent anti-Semitic attacks in the last couple of years that have been recorded. The worst recent attack was the mass shooting at The Tree of Life Synagogue, Or L’Simcha Congregation in Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on October 27, 2018. The shooting happened just as Shabbat morning services began. The shooter killed eleven worshippers and wounded six, with Holocaust survivors among the fatalities.[1] Then barely six months later, on April 27, 2019, the last day of Passover and a Shabbat, a shooter entered the Chabad of Poway, California. One hundred worshippers were attending the service; the shooter injured three, including the rabbi. One woman, Lori Lynn Gilbert-Kaye, was killed trying to protect their rabbi, Yisroel Goldstein. [2]

Another attack of worshipping Jews happened outside the US, the epicenter of 20th century anti-Semitism and the Holocaust planning in Germany. On October 9, 2019, Yom Kippur, a far-right extremist, attempted to enter the Halle synagogue in Halle, Saxony-Anhalt, Germany, shooting and using explosives at the door. The security system was too tight, and the attacker could not enter the synagogue. Still, he went on a rampage, killing a woman outside the synagogue and a man at a local shop, and injured two others. [3] Barely two months later, on December 10, 2019, Black Hebrew Israelite church members led a fatal attack on a kosher supermarket, the JC Kosher Supermarket in Jersey City, New Jersey. The group, which believes they are the true Jews, specifically looked to attack Jews. They left three Jews died at the store, including the proprietor, a student, and a police officer, one before the attack and two police officers at the scene were injured and a customer. [4] The supermarket attack was the worst incident in a wave of anti-Semitic incidents in New York and New Jersey.

On Saturday, January 15, 2022, British national Malik Faisel Akram, who had arrived in the US around New Year’s Day, entered the synagogue in Texas. Some of his rantings indicate Akram came to Forth Worth demanding that Aafia Siddiqui be released from her 86-year sentence in a Forth Worth prison during the hostage-taking. Siddiqui was a Pakastani neuroscientist who attacked American soldiers while imprisoned in Afghanistan. She has been in Fort Worth since her 2010 conviction. [5]

Akram came to the synagogue just before services began. Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker let him and gave him tea, thinking he was cold, as North Texas had a cold spell. The rabbi turned his back not too long after, and Akram had a gun to him, taking him and the three other worshippers hostage present for Shabbat services. Akram demanded to speak to Rabbi Angela Buchdahl, the leader of Central Synagogue in New York City; there were two calls where she spoke to the attacker. Rabbi Cytron-Walker recounted to the Forward, “This was somebody who literally thought that Jews control the world. He thought he could come into a synagogue, and we could get on the phone with the ‘Chief Rabbi of America’, and he would get what he needed.” [6]

Fortunately, the attack at Beth Israel had a good ending, with all four hostages released and uninjured after eleven hours. One hostage was released six hours in, at five in the afternoon, but Rabbi Charlie knew they had to get out by the evening. He learned from the synagogue security training told the other two hostages to run towards the door while the rabbi threw a chair at the hostage-taker. The rabbi and the worshippers escaped, and the police shot Akram ending the ordeal.

Why Akram chose a synagogue or to take Jewish hostages in exchange for Siddiqui is still unknown. Still, it is difficult not to see the connection between anti-Semitism, Israel, and anti-Zionism as the motivator for radical Muslim planning and undertaking a terror attack. Both American and British officials investigating are calling the attack terrorism. President Joe Biden the hostage-taking an “act of terror,” and the FBI was calling it a “terrorism-related matter.” [7] In Britain, their counterterrorism police are in the process of investigating and have already arrested two. [8]

However, the FBI refused to call the attack anti-Semitism, which angered American Jews. On Wednesday, January 20, FBI Director Christopher A. Wray announced that the Colleyville synagogue hostage-taking was “An act of terrorism targeting the Jewish community.” [9] After a backlash, Wray admitted in a “webinar hosted by the Anti-Defamation League,” “This was not some random occurrence. It was intentional, it was symbolic and we’re not going to tolerate antisemitism in this country.” [10]

However, on Saturday evening after the attack, Special Agent Matthew DeSarno of the FBI’s Dallas field office told the news that the attack was “not specifically related to the Jewish community.” After attacks from Republican members of Congress and the Jewish community, the FBI office announced the attack was “a terrorism-related matter, in which the Jewish community was targeted.” [11] Rabbi Cytron-Walker said that Akram specifically targeted Jews and the synagogue. The rabbi recounted, “I don’t remember all the details, but it was basically the notion that Jews were more important in his mind than everyone else, and that America would do more to save Jews than it would for anyone else. That’s why he specifically targeted a synagogue. That ‘Protocols of the Elders of Zion’ type of antisemitism — that’s why he focused on us… I was thinking, this guy really believes that Jews control the world.” [12]

Reactions for the public and leaders indicate how ingrained anti-Semitism is. Hen Mazzig, a senior fellow at the Tel Aviv Institute, spoke to the Washington Post from Britain, expressing, “Being Jewish and alive shouldn’t be a miracle. But it is.” However, he indicated, “We are never truly safe.” [13] Holocaust historian Deborah E. Lipstadt, who is also President Joe Biden’s nominee for the State Department special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism abroad, wrote an opinion piece in the New York Times, “For Jews, Going to Services Is an Act of Courage.” Lipstadt wrote, “It is not radical to say that going to services, whether to converse with God or with the neighbors you see only once a week, should not be an act of courage. And yet this weekend, we were once again reminded that it can be precisely that.” [14]

Rabbi Eliott Cosgrove of Park Avenue Synagogue in New York lamented in a message to members the day after the hostage-taking, “My sadness stems from an awareness that antisemitism remains a lived reality in our world. How is it that the warped mind of an antisemite identifies Jews as the object of their ire and violence? What sort of world is it when Jewish houses of prayer must defend ourselves against the world’s oldest hatred? How do we raise our children and grandchildren to wear their Judaism with pride knowing that there are those in this world who would do them harm just for being who they are? I wake up this morning with more questions than answers — questions, I am sure, shared by all of us.”

While American political leaders, including President Joe Biden, spoke out against anti-Semitism, in Israel Prime Minister Naftali Bennett statement showed the reality and resignation world Jewry feels about anti-Semitism. President Biden expressed, “We will stand against antisemitism and against the rise of extremism in this country.” [15] Prime Minister Bennett took to Twitter where he said something all Jews know too well, “This event is a stark reminder that antisemitism is still alive, and we must continue to fight it worldwide. To the Jewish community in Colleyville and around the world: You are not alone — we stand united with you.” [16]

There was an outpouring of support for the North Texas, Colleyville congregation from all over the world, the Jewish community, political leaders, and interfaith leaders. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took to Twitter and his social media to denounce the attack. Trudeau expressed solidarity, writing, “Antisemitism is not acceptable. Not in Texas, here at home, or anywhere. While I’m relieved the hostages are now safe, the situation at Congregation Beth Israel is a reminder that each and every one of us must remain vigilant and work together to combat hatred in all its forms.” [17]

During the hostage-taking, Imam Omar Suleiman, Pastor Bob Roberts, and Rabbi Andrew Payley gathered next door at the Good Shepherd Catholic Church, praying, helping, and waiting for news about their friend. [14] On Monday, January 17, there was a “healing service at White’s Chapel United Methodist Church in Southlake.” [18] Then on Thursday, January 20, there was a Zoom interfaith gathering of “Jewish, Christian and Muslim faiths.” The leaders “came together to condemn antisemitism, call for unity, and give thanks to God and the North Texas community and first responders who supported Congregation Beth Israel when it was attacked on Saturday.” [19]

Despite the unity in the community, the Anti-Defamation League finds that anti-Semitism increased by the Islamic extremists and the radical right, Holocaust denials, and white supremacists. Radical Muslims and Al Qaeda supporters praised Akram’s actions. The radical right used the opportunity to espouse their anti-Semitic and Holocaust denial views just days before the United Nations International Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 27. The UN resolved to commemorate Holocaust victims in a UN Resolution on November 1, 2005, after the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps. The day was chosen because on January 27, 1945, the Russian Red Army liberated Auschwitz concentration camp. [20]

These radical groups are claiming that American Jews are using the attack to gain sympathy for the Holocaust, using tropes such as Jewish power and influence, or even going as far as saying that it was all staged. Some went as far as to call for more violence against American Jews. ADL views the rise in anti-Semitism in the aftermath of the hostage attack as “a clear indication that acts of antisemitism tend to inspire further expressions of antisemitism. [21]

An updated report on the state of anti-Semitism in the world shows just how rampant it is. On Monday, January 24, 2022, the World Zionist Organization and the Jewish Agency for Israel released a report on anti-Semitism in the Diaspora on the eve of International Holocaust Remembrance Day. The report indicates there were “10 anti-Semitic incidents occurred around the world every day last year, a 10-year high.” [22] The Jewish Agency is affiliated with the Israeli government, and it is “the executive branch of the World Zionist Organization.”

Despite rising incidents in North America, Europe was the epicenter of the anti-Semitic incidents, with nearly half occurring in Europe, 30 percent in the US, and “surprising” increases in Canada and Australia. The report found that 2021 was “the most anti-Semitic year in the last decade”, the good news was that “no Jew in the world has been murdered on anti-Semitic grounds” during the year. Most of the incidents were “vandalism and destruction, graffiti, and desecration of monuments, as well as propaganda.” While “Incidents of physical and verbal violence accounted for less than a third of all anti-Semitic incidents.” [23]

The Israeli-Hamas conflict in May was one of the main reasons behind the rising number of incidents. In May, many countries ended Covid-19 lockdowns, allowing for the people “to move around the public space again”, and rallies and protests came. All organizations who monitor anti-Semitism noted how that anti-Semitism increased multiple times the average amount over the fighting in Israel. The pandemic was the other reason for the mounting anti-Semitism. The report recounts, “Many demonstrations against the Covid vaccines and restrictions included Holocaust motifs, such as the yellow star, as well as anti-Semitic conspiracy theories accusing Jews as spreaders of the pandemic to control the world,” also there was an increase in “trivialisation of the Holocaust.” [24]

The organization, Combat Antisemitism Movement (CAM), also analyzed how Covid deniers use Holocaust analogies. CAM found “60 million online engagements” where they used they invoked the Holocaust in their arguments and conspiracy theories about Covid-19. The social media posts were mainly in English and Hebrew and Spanish. CAM chief Sacha Roytman Dratwa explained, “The trivialization of Nazi Germany’s crimes against humanity fuels Holocaust deniers who seek to downplay Nazi transgressions and allowing it to flourish unchecked has created safe spaces for anti-Semitic conspiracies, outright Holocaust denial, and other extremist ideologies to spread.” [25]

The ADL says, according to its “Audit of Antisemitic Incidents in the United States,” they “recorded more than 2,100 acts of assault, vandalism and harassment, an increase of 12 percent over the previous year.” [26] The ADL calls this “near historic levels.” The ADL recorded “five fatalities” and 91 “targeted physical assaults in the past year.” Most of the incidents noted were “assaults, harassments, and vandalism.” As ADL notes, “The deadly attacks in synagogues in Pittsburgh and Poway have made American Jews feel more vulnerable than they have felt in decades.” [27]

The May 2021 Israel-Gaza conflict increased anti-Semitism and incidents multiple-fold. ADL saw a “75% increase in anti-Semitism.” AS ADL indicated, “The figure jumped from 127 incidents in the two weeks prior to fighting to 222 in the two weeks after violence broke out.” [28] More anti-Semitism because of social media, including 17,000 tweets, referenced Hitler and Nazism. Additionally, there have been “dozens of anti-Israel protests.” [29] Oren Segal, vice-president of the ADL’s Center on Extremism, noted, “Usually it’s not surprising to see a spike because of the invective and anger that comes with a conflict. A lot more protests, a lot more grievances, and at times that leads to a lot more expression of anti-Semitism and incidents of anti-Semitism.” [30]

ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt expressed at the time, “As the violence between Israel and Hamas continues to escalate, we are witnessing a dangerous and drastic surge in anti-Jewish hate right here at home. We are tracking acts of harassment, vandalism, and violence as well as a torrent of online abuse. It’s happening around the world — from London to Los Angeles, from France to Florida, in big cities like New York and in small towns, and across every social media platform.” [31]

In Canada, the Hill Times notes, “Statistics Canada revealed that Jewish Canadians were the single biggest victims of religiously motivated hate crimes across the country in 2019.” [32] According to Bnai Brith Canada’s 2020 Audit of AntiSemitic Incidents, there were “2,610 recorded incidents. The third consecutive year in which the 2,000 plateau was exceeded. Fifth Record-setting year, 2020 was the fifth consecutive record-setting year for antisemitism in Canada. AN 18.3% INCREASE of recorded anti-Semitic incidents compared to 2019. MORE THAN 7 antisemitic incidents occurred every day in 2020. OVER 44% of violent incidents in 2020 were COVID-19-related.” [33]

Bnai Brith Canada “uses the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) Working Definition of Antisemitism and collects the data through their hotline. The IHRA defines “Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.” Bnai Brith includes anti-Israel behavior as part of the anti-Semitic activity. Such as “Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the State of Israel.” The incidents documented are harassment includes “anti-Semitic tropes or stereotypes” and social media posts, vandalism, and physical violence. [34]

Canadian antisemitic incidents seem to be rising at higher rates than in the US, increasing by “18% since 2019”. The 2610 incidents averaged out to “217 incidents per month, 50 incidents per week, and 7 antisemitic incidents per day.” [35] Bnai Brith’s survey considered the Covid-19 pandemic and how it is affecting anti-Semitic incidents in Canada. Bnai Brith notes, “Approximately 1 out of every 10 incidents related to either the peddling of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, vandalism, or violence associated with the pandemic.” [36]

Bnai Brith reports, “The Canadian Centre for Justice and Community Safety Statistics, police-reported hate-crime data for 2019 indicate that Jews, though only some 1% of the population of Canada, account for 15% of all hate crimes in Canada, and remain the country’s most targeted religious minority.” [37] The majority, over 80 percent of Canadian Jews, live in three cities, Toronto, Ontario, Montréal, Quebec, and Vancouver, British Columbia. However, Like the FBI last week, Stats Can seems to downplay the seriousness of anti-Semitism. According to Stats Can, they claim that there is a decrease in anti-Semitism in Canada why because there were “fewer police-reported crimes motivated by hate against the Jewish population, which declined from 372 incidents to 296 incidents in 2019 (-20%).” [38]

In previous years, the Jewish population reported more anti-Semitic attacks to the police. Stats Can says a “63% jump in 2017 and a 3% increase in 2018.” However, in 2019 the decrease was 20% from 372 to 296. Stats Can says it was because there was a decrease in reports in “Alberta (-29), British Columbia (-20), Ontario (-19) and Quebec (-18).” Muslim Canadians have been reporting attacks on their community more than Canadian Jews, “from 166 to 181 incidents (+9%).” Based on police reports, hate crimes against Jews represent the second most of all attacks, 16%, behind the Black population at 18%. [39] The results counter Bnai Brith’s because, as in the US, Canadian Jews prefer to report to Jewish Organizations, such as Bnai Brith’s hotline anti-Semitic instances rather than go to the police.

As in the US in Canada, anti-Semitic harassment accounts for most of the cases, with 2483 incidents, followed by vandalism with 118 incidents, but they only listed nine instances of violence. Anti-Semitic incidents increased in the Atlantic Provinces and Ontario, the most populated province with the largest Jewish population. Most incidents happened in Ontario and Quebec, 1130 and 686 cases, respectively. In the Atlantic Provinces, incidents increased from 2019 to 2020 by 226 percent from 61 to 199. In Ontario, it increased by 44 percent from 783 to 1130 incidents. Surprisingly, Quebec saw a drop of 14 percent, a high of 796 incidents to 686. In Canada, there was an increase of 71 percent. [40]

Ran Ukashi, Special Advisor to the League for Human Rights, describes the types of anti-Semitism seen in Canada last year. Ukashi writes anti-Semitism “included the equation of Jews with white supremacists, the invitation of terrorist sympathizers who slander the Jewish State and blame it for acts of violence targeting African Americans in the United States, and student unions meant to represent all university students boycott Jewish and Israeli students, refusing to work with Jewish student groups unless they deny their own indigenous and ancestral connection the Land of Israel, among other examples of antisemitic discrimination. At the time of this writing, there have been no consequences for these purveyors of hatred. Thus, even in a country such as Canada, inhabited as it is by a principled majority who believe in justice and equality for all, the rot of anti-Semitism.” [41]

Before this attack, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced plans his Liberal government would be taking to combat anti-Semitism. In October 2021, Trudeau spoke at “an international forum on Holocaust remembrance and antisemitism in Malmo, Sweden,” hosted by Canada. There Trudeau announced the role of “Canada’s special envoy on preserving Holocaust remembrance and fighting anti-Semitism” would be a permanent government position. In November 2020, Trudeau appointed former Federal Justice Minister McGill Law Professor, international human rights lawyer Irwin Cotler and he will remain in the post.

Trudeau called anti-Semitism a “canary in the coal mine of evil,” a phrase Cotler has used in the past. Trudeau admitted, “Antisemitism isn’t a problem for the Jewish community to solve alone. It’s everyone’s challenge to take on, especially governments. And that’s why we’ll develop and implement a national action plan on combating hate, working in concert with Jewish communities and our special envoy.” [42] Trudeau also announced that he would be providing $5 million in funds as part of a federal Security Infrastructure Program to provide security to minority institutions; the funds will protect Jews institutions and synagogues. [43] Trudeau told the forum, “The rise in hate-motivated crimes against the Jewish community in the past few months is not only alarming, it’s completely unacceptable. As Jewish Canadians, too many of you have told me you’re feeling isolated and vulnerable.” [44]

President Biden wanted to upgrade the US State Department’s Special Envoy for Combating and Monitoring Anti-Semitism to an ambassadorship. In July, Biden nominated Emory University professor and esteemed Holocaust historian Deborah Lipstadt. Unfortunately, for Biden, the Senate must confirm her position. However, Republicans are holding up her nomination in the Senate. Sen. James Risch (R-Idaho), the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is refusing to allow Democrats to schedule her hearing. Troublesome, especially with the rising anti-Semitism. Lipstadt accused Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) of “white supremacy/nationalism,” when he claimed he would have been more afraid of the far left, Black Lives Matter movement, or Antifa at the January 6, 2021, Capitol Riots rather than the far-right radicals that invaded Congress. [45] Despite anti-Semitic attacks such as Colleyville, Republicans, who are supposed to be pro-Israel, is playing politics when American Jews are in such peril. The episode is again putting her nomination and confirmation delay in the spotlight.

Jewish historians, sociologists, and journalists vary whether anti-Israel sentiment anti-Zionism is a part of anti-Semitism and even fueling recent hatred and attacks on Jews. University of Toronto’s Robert Bryma and York University’s Rhonda Lenton defined anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism in their essay “Antisemitism, Anti-Israelism and Canada in Context.” Bryma and Lenton write, “For purposes of our analysis, we define antisemitism as opposition to the notion that Jews should be treated in the same way as non-Jews, with the expression of this opposition ranging from mild prejudice to genocidal action. We define anti-Israelism as opposition to a range of conditions, ranging from specific state policies to the existence of Israel as a Jewish state.” [46]

McGill University Historian Professor Gil Troy believes that anti-Zionism is the new anti-Semitism, arguing, “anti-Zionism feeds Jew-hatred.” [47] Steven Windmueller, the Rabbi Alfred Gottschalk Emeritus Professor of Jewish Communal Service at the Jack H. Skirball Campus of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, Los Angeles, explains, “Anti-Semitism must be seen as a specific ideology of belief about Jews and Judaism as well as a prescription for a particular form of behavior or action, directed against the Jewish people. Those who embrace this age-old form of political practice have extracted specific elements of anti-Judaism from the pages of history or from the current social rhetoric about Jews and Israel.” [48]

New York Times columnist and former Jerusalem Post editor Bret Stephens concurred that anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism. Stephens wrote the piece “Anti-Zionism Isn’t Anti-Semitism? Someone Didn’t Get the Memo” in May 2021, amid the latest Gaza war, where Palestinian disturbances and rocket attacks led Israel to take action. The fighting lasted ten days, from May 10 until a ceasefire on May 21. At the time, attacks that included multiple times over on Jews worldwide occurred. Stephens noted, Progressives “have indulged an anti-Israel movement that keeps descending into the crudest forms of anti-Semitism.” [49]

Bryma and Lenton argue the opposite, “We take issue with both the new antisemitism thesis and its most ardent critics. We argue that a correlation exists between antisemitism and anti-Israelism, but the correlation varies widely in strength by social context. It follows that, in some cases, extremists on both sides of the debate are correct. However, in most cases they are not.” [50]

Anti-Semitism globally is more associated with the far-right politically. The rise of Donald Trump’s presidency and the August 2017 Charlottesville “Unite the Right” rally and riots of right-wing extremists and white supremacists chanting anti-Semitic diatribes, such as “Jews will not replace us,” and chants often associated with Hitler and Nazism. [51] University of Chicago historian David Nirenberg told the Atlantic, “The extreme right considers many people their threat. But it always, always, always comes back to the Jews.” [52] It’s difficult not to include Israel and anti-Zionism in the anti-Semitism narrative when former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, a leading marcher in the Charlottesville rally, preaches, “Jewish Zionists control the media and American political system.” [53]

Gil Troy finds that the left and far-left are just as much contributing to the new anti-Semitism as the right. However, with most American Jews liberals and card-carrying Democrats, they are less likely to blame the worst elements of the left for recent anti-Semitism. “In a polarized polity, too many in the overwhelmingly liberal American-Jewish community either ignore or cover up left-wing complicity in the New Antisemitism, meaning anti-Zionist Jew-hatred. Call it Zio-washing bleaching the anti-Zionism out of modern antisemitism.” [54] Writing amid the latest Israel-Gaza war, Troy recounted, “The antisemitic attacks and rhetoric during the latest conflict was fueled by the anti-Zionist left’s sweeping denunciations of Israel and Zionism. Wrapping their cause in Black Lives Matters rhetoric and righteousness, pro-Palestinian and pro-Islamist goons have committed many of the most recent anti-Jewish street crimes.” [55]

Unfortunately, not all anti-Semitic incidents are reported, or that ADL or Bnai Brith include. The numbers only include the direst attacks. These incidents must meet specific criteria and must be very direct. So many slights, microaggressions, or implied or indirect anti-Semitic incidents are not counted. The more passive-aggressive incidents are not included, these daily events might bring numbers out of control. In these situations, a student could be passed over for a scholarship, job, receive a terrible grade, etc., because they were Jewish or pro-Israel. Still, they are never told that is the reason directly; another reason is given. So much info is taken from social media that exposed people’s lives and open books. The same discrimination occurs with other racial and religious minorities, where they are passed over for the sound of their name.

Distain and lack of respect for Jews might be more rampant than the overt reported anti-Semitic incidents because they are harder to quantify. Tell anyone non-Jewish that something occurred can be traced to anti-Semitic feelings, and they tell you that you are overanalyzing or even as far as saying you are paranoid. However, the anti-Semitic feeling and hate for Jews is real and out there. As VOX senior reporter Jack Beauchamp pointed out the terrible reality, after the Colleyville attacks, “for the most part, the world has moved on. American Jews, on the other hand, cannot — for good reason.” [56]

Considering the feelings from the outside world, the political and religious divisions among Jews in the United States, Canada, the rest of the Diaspora to Israel, and even among Israelis are even more troubling. In May 2021, the Pew Research Center released an updated survey on American Judaism entitled “Jewish Americans in 2020.” [57] Aptly put, the subtitle was “U.S. Jews are culturally engaged, increasingly diverse, politically polarized and worried about anti-Semitism.” [58] Jewish Americans are intensely divided politically, with the non-religious majority, and liberal branches of Judaism, Conservative, and Reform are overwhelming Democratic Party, while the Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox support the Republican Party and conservative views. The divisions are starker among younger Jews, who are more liberal, more diverse racially, less attached to Israel, and more critical of the Jewish state.

These viewpoints spill over in their views and support of Israel. American Jews are less attached to religious observance and Israel than in any previous survey of American Jewry. This statement is especially true for younger Jews under 30-years old. They are the least attached to Israel than any other age group, and first the first time in a survey, the age group’s attachment to Israel is under 50 percent. As Pew notes, “More broadly, young U.S. Jews are less emotionally attached to Israel than older ones. As of 2020, half of Jewish adults under age 30 describe themselves as very or somewhat emotionally attached to Israel (48%), compared with two-thirds of Jews ages 65 and older.” [59] These numbers correlate to their liberal political leanings. Among the different branches of Judaism, American Jews believe they have more in common with Israeli Jews than with their religious counterparts. With Conservative and Reform Jews finding, they have little in common with Orthodox Jews and vice versa.

All Jews of diverse backgrounds agree that anti-Semitism is rising and more of a problem. According to Pew, 90 percent of Americans believe “there is at least ‘some’ anti-Semitism in the United States, including 45% who say there is ‘a lot’ of anti-Semitism.” [60] As Pew noted, “Three-quarters say there is more anti-Semitism in the United States than there was five years ago, and just over half (53%) say that ‘as a Jewish person in the United States’ they feel less safe than they did five years ago.” Most American Jews feel that not only “The number of anti-Semites has grown,” but that “people now feel more free to express anti-Semitic views.” [61]

Pew indicates the most common forms of anti-Semitism American Jews experience. “For example, 37% say they have seen anti-Jewish graffiti or vandalism in their local community in the past 12 months, while 19% say they have been made to feel unwelcome because they are Jewish and 15% say they have been called offensive names. Fewer say that in the 12 months prior to taking the survey they have been harassed online (8%) or physically attacked (5%) because they are Jewish.” Orthodox Jews are more often victims than any other branches because they wear religious symbols and attire.

Additionally, young Jews under 30 years old are at the receiving end more than any other group, with a quarter experiencing anti-Semitism. Three-quarters of Jewish adults have seen, heard, or read anti-Semitic tropes or stereotypes on social media or in the news, with 30 percent witnessing it “in their presence.” If American Jews heard any Holocaust denial, it has been second-hand, with 63 percent reading or hearing it, only 9 percent experienced it “in their presence.” However, fewer American Jews heard questions of dual loyalty to the US because of Israel; only 36 percent heard it second-hand, while only 6 percent heard it “in their presence.” [62]

The American Jewish Committee also conducted a new survey, on “The State of Antisemitism in America 2021.” [63] The survey asked some of the same questions as the Pew report on anti-Semitism, and the results also mirrored them. The results determined that 90 percent of American Jews find anti-Semitism a problem, with 40 percent finding it a serious problem. An overwhelming 82 percent believe anti-Semitism increased in the past five years. Most American Jews worry that anti-Semitism is not being taken as serious as it should be. A third of American Jews feel less secure because of the increase of anti-Semitism. Most Americans Jews experienced an attack or harassment in person or on social media, 17 and 12 percent, respectively. However, a small minority of only three percent experienced a physical attack. As AJC indicates, “In all, 24% of American Jews have been the targets of antisemitic incidents — physical attacks, remarks in person, or remarks online- in 2021.” [64]

Still, mostly American Jews are not letting anti-Semitism prevent them from participating in Jewish cultural or religious activities. Pew noted of the 35 percent of Jews who felt less safe from rising anti-Semitism, two-thirds had no intention of staying away from Jewish events, worship, or activities. However, AJC’s survey found more Americans are becoming more reticent about public displays of Judaism and attending Jewish events and places because of rising anti-Semitism, 25 and 17 percent, respectively. AJC notes, “In all, 39% of American Jews have changed their behavior out of fear of antisemitism in the last 12 months.” [65] The May 2021 Israel-Gaza conflict has made 72 percent of Americans Jews feel less safe. Jewish institutions have been the targets of anti-Semitism by “graffiti, attacks, and threats.” AJC found, “In all, 24% of American Jews said that Jewish institutions with which they are affiliated had been targeted by antisemitism over the past five years.” [66]

Despite the Colleyville attack American Jewish leaders are calling on the Jewish population to show support attend services. Rabbi Cytron-Walker told American Jewry, ‘It’s safe to go to shul,’ that mentality, which keeps American Jews returning to their synagogues, especially after anti-Semitic attacks. [67] Rabbi Cytron-Walker also expressed that he was not going to let the incident and anti-Semitism prevent him wearing his kippah, “I continue to wear my yarmulke proudly. It’s really up to you. And I would hope, and I would pray that we’re able to get past the sense of fear.” [68] On Twitter, Professor Lipstadt encouraged all Jews to fight back no matter their observance level by going to synagogue on the Shabbat after the attack. Lipstadt posted, “And none shall make YOU afraid-Lev26:6: Jews-Orthodox/Reform/Conservative/Reconstructionist/JCC/Havurah/Atheist/Break-fast/Proud&Not so/LQBTQ/Straight/Unsure/Educated/Don’t know an Alef vs. Bet: SHOW UP IN SHUL THIS SHABBAT/SHOW UP IN DEFIANCE/JOY/TO SEE FELLOW JEWS #SHOWUPINSHUL” [69]

Unfortunately, most 58 percent of American Jews that experienced online harassment do not report the attacks. It is discouraging because the social media platforms do not remove the threats or remarks three-quarters of the time. Very few choose to report the incidents beyond the social media platforms, only 5 percent go to the police, 17 percent report to Jewish organizations such as ADL or their local Federation, while most 46 percent go the social media platforms. Most American Jews that experience online anti-Semitism do not feel physically threatened and only 18 percent do. American Jews feel more alone when they are verbally attacked in person, 79 percent do not report the incidents, only four percent go to the police, but 19 percent attempt to report to the Jewish organizations. [70]

Considering ADL’s numbers and AJC’s survey, American Jews are not comfortable reporting the anti-Semitism they experienced to the authorities. According to the FBI’s 2020 statistics, American Jewry represents only two percent of the American population, but attacks against them represent 58 percent of all “religiously motivated hate crimes” in the US. [71] The FBI received reports of 7,759 hate crimes in 2020, “4,939 attacks were motivated by race or ethnicity, 1,174 by religion and 1,051 by sexual orientation.” Jews represented the largest number of “religiously motivated hate crimes with 676 reported, 9 percent of the total hate crimes for 2020. In 2019 more American Jews reported hate crimes, representing “63% of all religiously motivated hate crimes and 13% of all hate crimes nationwide.” [72] Jews represent “the third largest target of hate crimes out of all minorities in the entire country,” with “only anti-black or African-American, anti-White, and anti-LGBT attacks were more numerous than anti-Jewish ones.” [73]

Despite not reporting anti-Semitism to law enforcement, two-thirds of American Jews trust the police to keep them and their institutions safe. They trust President Joe Biden, the Democratic Party, and their local governments with 53, 45, and 42 percent, but lack confidence in Congress and the Republican Party, disapproving 50 and 65 percent, respectively. Almost all American Jews view the far right as an anti-Semitic threat 91 percent, but only 71 percent see the far left as a threat and a problem, still, the vast majority, 86 percent of American Jews agree Islamic extremism is a threat. Surprisingly, considering American Jewry’s sympathy for racial and religious minorities, 72 percent consider them an anti-Semitic threat.

Despite some Jew’s and non-Jews viewpoint, most American Jews realize that anti-Israel sentiments and anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism. Among American Jews, 82 percent realize that the Boycott, Sanctions, and Divestment (BDS) Movement has “mostly anti-Semitic or some antisemitic supporters.” They view remarks questioning Israel’s right to exist and American Jewry’s dual loyalty as anti-Semitic, “Israel has no right to exist,”

“American Jews are loyal to Israel and disloyal to America,” 81 and 85 percent as antisemitic. American Jews have almost zero tolerance for Holocaust denial, with 94 percent finding the comment “The Holocaust has been exaggerated,” as anti-Semitic. [74]

Jewish college students find the far-left and the far-right as anti-Semitic threats on campus. Still, as Troy noted and Pew indicates, young liberal Jews find the far-right much more of a threat than the far-left on campus, 61 to 45 percent. Most Jewish college students view anti-Israel sentiment, anti-Zionism, and the BDS movement as anti-Semitic, only 54 percent equate anti-Semitism to anti-Zionism. Ironically, very few 20 percent know anyone or themselves experienced anti-Semitism on campus. [75]

The Reform community in Colleyville, Texas, and its rabbi were not the stereotypical targets for an anti-Semitic attack in the US. The liberal congregation was well integrated into the community and welcomed a diverse Jewish community. Rabbi Charlie as his congregation affectionately called him is involved in inter-faith activities that support diversity and LGBT rights. Liberal values were held near and a priority. A former congregant even accused the rabbi of being against the second amendment, not allowing guns within the sanctuary, and criticizing Israel to the point of calling it an apartheid state, which Rabbi Cytron-Walker vehemently denied to JTA. [76]

Usually, such assimilated views lead to more acceptances. Unfortunately, in this case, being Jews was the qualification; showing identification with most American views does not protect from anti-Semitism. Anti-Semitism is all around and it does not matter how American Jews align politically and socially. As Gil Troy indicates in a Jerusalem Post opinion piece, entitled, “Antisemitism, Holocaust denial: First they gassed us, now they gaslight us,” “Obviously, many today deny Jew-hatred to avoid confronting Islamist Jew-hatred. But this is an old story. This phantom hatred takes many forms. Some hate Jews for standing out, others hate Jews for fitting in; some hate from the Right, others from the Left. Amid this cacophony of bigotry, people pick convenient targets while dodging uncomfortable truths. They condemn the antisemites they hate anyway, overlooking any allies’ antisemitism. Amid such partisan-clouded confusion, evil flourishes.” [77]

Deborah Lipstadt conveyed that despite the anti-Semitism we are strong, “We are shaken. We are not OK. But we will bounce back. We are resilient because we cannot afford not to be. That resiliency is part of the Jewish DNA.” [78] While Andrew Rehfeld, president of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) seminary, Ohio, rightfully expresses, “When an attack on any one of us happens, we’re not Reform, or Orthodox or Conservative. We are a Jewish people.” [79] With anti-Semitism still a physical threat to world Jewry, we all must put aside our political, social, religious, and geographical differences, kind to each other despite varying viewpoints, and stand strongly united because if we will not, who will be? [80]

Bonnie K. Goodman, BA, MLIS, is a Professional Librarian (CBPQ) and historian. She is the author of “Silver Boom! The Rise and Decline of Leadville, Colorado as the United States Silver Capital, 1860–1896,” “The Mysterious Prince of the Confederacy: Judah P. Benjamin and the Jewish goal of whiteness in the South,” “We Used to be Friends? The Long Complicated History of Jews, Blacks, and Anti-Semitism,” and the viral article, “OTD in History… October 19, 1796, Alexander Hamilton accuses Thomas Jefferson of having an affair with his slave creating a 200-year-old controversy over Sally Hemings.”

Ms. Goodman has a BA in History and Art History, and a Masters in Library and Information Studies both from McGill University has done graduate work in Jewish history at Concordia University as part of the MA in Judaic Studies, where she focused Medieval and Modern Judaism. Her research area is North American Jewish history, particularly American Jewish history, and her thesis was entitled, “Unconditional Loyalty to the Cause: Southern Whiteness, Jewish Women, and Antisemitism, 1860–1913.”

Ms. Goodman contributed the overviews and chronologies to the “History of American Presidential Elections, 1789–2008,” edited by Gil Troy, Arthur M. Schlesinger, and Fred L. Israel (2012). She is the former Features Editor at the History News Network and reporter at Examiner.com, where she covered politics, universities, religion, and news. She currently blogs at Medium, where she was a top writer in history and regularly writes on “On This Day in History (#OTD in #History)” Feature and on the Times of Israel. Her scholarly articles can be found on Academia.edu. She has over fifteen years of experience in education and political journalism.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pittsburgh_synagogue_shooting

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poway_synagogue_shooting

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Halle_synagogue_shooting

[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2019_Jersey_City_shooting

[5] https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/17/us/texas-synagogue-hostages-escape.html

[6] https://forward.com/news/480928/beth-israel-hostage-standoff-charlie-cytron-walker/

[7] https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/16/us/hostage-texas-synagogue.html

[8] https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/16/us/malik-faisal-akram-texas-synagogue-hostage.html

[9] https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/16/us/hostage-texas-synagogue.html

[10] https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/20/us/fbi-texas-synagogue-antisemitism.html

[11] https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/20/us/fbi-texas-synagogue-antisemitism.html

[12] https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/20/us/fbi-texas-synagogue-antisemitism.html

[13] https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2022/01/16/jewish-community-texas-synagogue-attack-reacts/

[14] https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/18/opinion/texas-colleyville-antisemitism.html

[15] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colleyville_synagogue_hostage_crisis

[16] https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2022/01/16/jewish-community-texas-synagogue-attack-reacts/

[17] https://twitter.com/JustinTrudeau/status/1482761591980503047

[18] https://www.washingtonpost.com/religion/2022/01/17/muslim-jewish-hostage-synagogue-interfaith/

[19] https://www.star-telegram.com/news/local/community/northeast-tarrant/article257409012.html; https://www.washingtonpost.com/religion/2022/01/17/muslim-jewish-hostage-synagogue-interfaith/

[20] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_Holocaust_Remembrance_Day

[21] https://www.adl.org/blog/extremists-respond-to-colleyville-hostage-crisis-with-antisemitism-islamophobia

[22] https://news.yahoo.com/anti-semitic-incidents-decade-high-153823763.html

[23] https://news.yahoo.com/anti-semitic-incidents-decade-high-153823763.html

[24] https://news.yahoo.com/anti-semitic-incidents-decade-high-153823763.html

[25] https://news.yahoo.com/anti-semitic-incidents-decade-high-153823763.html

[26] https://www.adl.org/what-we-do/anti-semitism/antisemitism-in-the-us

[27] https://www.adl.org/what-we-do/anti-semitism/antisemitism-in-the-us

[28] https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-57286341

[29] https://www.adl.org/news/press-releases/preliminary-adl-data-reveals-uptick-in-antisemitic-incidents-linked-to-recent

[30] https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-57286341

[31] https://www.adl.org/news/press-releases/preliminary-adl-data-reveals-uptick-in-antisemitic-incidents-linked-to-recent

[32] https://www.hilltimes.com/2021/04/12/292371/292371

[33] https://drive.google.com/file/d/1IqrqxVoO0tCXxMxvC0_12rsSn5xPgMpu/view

[34] https://www.pewforum.org/2021/05/11/jewish-americans-in-2020/

[35] https://drive.google.com/file/d/1IqrqxVoO0tCXxMxvC0_12rsSn5xPgMpu/view

[36] https://drive.google.com/file/d/1IqrqxVoO0tCXxMxvC0_12rsSn5xPgMpu/view

[37] https://drive.google.com/file/d/1IqrqxVoO0tCXxMxvC0_12rsSn5xPgMpu/view

[38] https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/85-002-x/2021001/article/00002-eng.htm

[39] https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/85-002-x/2021001/article/00002-eng.htm

[40] https://drive.google.com/file/d/1IqrqxVoO0tCXxMxvC0_12rsSn5xPgMpu/view

[41] https://drive.google.com/file/d/1IqrqxVoO0tCXxMxvC0_12rsSn5xPgMpu/view

[42] https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/antisemitism-envoy-permanent-1.6209079

[43] https://www.jta.org/quick-reads/canada-will-spend-5m-to-strengthen-security-at-jewish-institutions-justin-trudeau-tells-anti-semitism-summit

[44] https://www.jta.org/quick-reads/canada-will-spend-5m-to-strengthen-security-at-jewish-institutions-justin-trudeau-tells-anti-semitism-summit

[45] https://thehill.com/homenews/senate/580121-adl-jewish-groups-in-rare-move-press-senate-to-immediately-consider

[46] https://www.jewishdatabank.org/content/upload/bjdb/2018_Survey_Jews_Canada_Antisemitism,_Israelism_and_Canada_(Brym,_Lenton).pdf

[47] https://www.jpost.com/opinion/we-need-to-focus-on-the-jews-that-love-israel-not-those-who-are-anti-opinion-684524

[48] https://ejewishphilanthropy.com/reflections-on-global-anti-semitism-its-implications-and-impact/

[49]

[50] https://www.jewishdatabank.org/content/upload/bjdb/2018_Survey_Jews_Canada_Antisemitism,_Israelism_and_Canada_(Brym,_Lenton).pdf

[51] https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/08/nazis-racism-charlottesville/536928/

[52] https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/08/nazis-racism-charlottesville/536928/

[53] https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/08/nazis-racism-charlottesville/536928/

[54] https://jewishchronicle.timesofisrael.com/when-it-comes-to-anti-israel-attacks-on-jews-its-time-to-name-the-enemy/

[55] https://jewishchronicle.timesofisrael.com/when-it-comes-to-anti-israel-attacks-on-jews-its-time-to-name-the-enemy/

[56] https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/22889932/beth-israel-synagogue-hostage-attack-terrorism-antisemitism

[57] https://www.pewforum.org/2021/05/11/jewish-americans-in-2020/

[58] https://www.pewforum.org/2021/05/11/jewish-americans-in-2020/

[59] https://www.pewforum.org/2021/05/11/jewish-americans-in-2020/

[60] https://www.pewforum.org/2021/05/11/jewish-americans-in-2020/

[61] https://www.pewforum.org/2021/05/11/jewish-americans-in-2020/

[62] https://www.pewforum.org/2021/05/11/jewish-americans-in-2020/

[63] https://www.ajc.org/AntisemitismReport2021/AmericanJews

[64] https://www.ajc.org/AntisemitismReport2021/AmericanJews

[65] https://www.ajc.org/news/the-state-of-antisemitism-in-america-2021-insights-and-analysis

[66] https://www.ajc.org/news/the-state-of-antisemitism-in-america-2021-insights-and-analysis

[67] https://www.jta.org/2022/01/19/united-states/the-texas-rabbi-who-escaped-a-hostage-situation-wants-to-correct-the-record

[68] https://forward.com/news/481138/charlie-cyrton-walker-texas-fbi-adle-to-wear-my-yarmulke-proudly/?utm_source=Iterable&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=campaign_3562806

[69] https://twitter.com/deborahlipstadt/status/1483428898717290497?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw%7Ctwcamp%5Etweetembed%7Ctwterm%5E1483428898717290497%7Ctwgr%5E%7Ctwcon%5Es1_&ref_url=https%3A %2F%2Fforward.com%2Ffast-forward%2F480966%2Fdeborah-lipstadt-texas-synagogue-colleyville-antisemitism-envoy%2F

[70] https://www.ajc.org/AntisemitismReport2021/AmericanJews

[71] https://www.jpost.com/opinion/article-694567

[72] https://www.jpost.com/diaspora/antisemitism/antisemitism-jews-target-of-58-percent-of-all-religiously-motivated-hate-crimes-in-us-678228

[73] https://www.jpost.com/diaspora/antisemitism/antisemitism-jews-target-of-58-percent-of-all-religiously-motivated-hate-crimes-in-us-678228

[74]

[75] https://www.ajc.org/AntisemitismReport2021/AmericanJews

[76] https://www.jta.org/2022/01/19/united-states/the-texas-rabbi-who-escaped-a-hostage-situation-wants-to-correct-the-record

[77] https://www.jpost.com/opinion/article-694567

[78] https://www.nytimes.com/2022/01/18/opinion/texas-colleyville-antisemitism.html

[79] https://www.jta.org/2022/01/19/united-states/the-texas-rabbi-who-escaped-a-hostage-situation-wants-to-correct-the-record

[80] https://abcnews.go.com/US/american-jewish-groups-leaders-send-support-texas-synagogue/story?id=82308225&fbclid=IwAR2TlKq4V4qOVIUuocmuuc1xGbhBlBQxFPq2wB1MtfDgPKYQx6Fjelbi48Q

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Bonnie K. Goodman BA, MLIS (McGill University) is a Professional Librarian (CBPQ) & historian. Former editor @ History News Network & reporter @ Examiner.com.

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Bonnie K. Goodman

Bonnie K. Goodman

Bonnie K. Goodman BA, MLIS (McGill University) is a Professional Librarian (CBPQ) & historian. Former editor @ History News Network & reporter @ Examiner.com.

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