Jews are finding it harder to be Jewish in America.
That became painfully apparent when American Jewish Committee released its latest State of Antisemitism in America report last month.
This report, one of the largest-ever surveys of American Jews and the U.S. general public on antisemitism in America, found 41% of American Jews believe their status in the U.S. is less secure than a year ago – a 10 percentage-point increase from 2021. It also reveals nine in 10 Jews and the general public believe antisemitism is a problem in the U.S. and more than eight in 10 Jews say it has worsened in the past five years.
At the same time, four in 10 Jews say they have changed their behavior in public out of fear of antisemitism. A quarter of Jewish Americans said they were targets of antisemitism in the last year.
Jews shouldn’t have to decide between hiding their Jewishness in public or risking physical or verbal assault. But here we are.
Antisemitism, however, is not a Jewish problem. It is a societal problem that we all must confront.
One way is by rejecting viral antisemitism on social media and online. Kanye West and Joe Rogan, who have many times more followers than the 15 million Jews around the world, are but a few of the “influencers” whose virtual poison causes real harm. Over the past 12 months, 67% of American Jews have seen antisemitic content (such as comments or posts) online or on social media. That number jumps to 84% for Jews under 30. Given that Gen Z essentially lives on their devices, it is not surprising that younger Jews feel more insecure than older generations.
AJC also found 26% of young Jews who saw antisemitism online felt physically threatened because of it, compared to 17% of those over 30. It is clear we need to start early when it comes to educating about antisemitism and its corrosive effects.
There are 23 states that have passed laws requiring Holocaust and genocide education. A proposed bill now in the Statehouse in St. Paul would enable Minnesota to join them. It could also serve as a national model through its specific inclusion of other genocides, including the genocide of Indigenous peoples and the establishment of a diverse task force of experts, teachers, students and community members impacted by genocide to curate resources that classroom teachers require to successfully teach this complex subject. The importance of this cannot be overstated. When AJC asked more than 1,000 non-Jews four questions about the Holocaust, those who got three or more right –56% – were more likely to know what antisemitism is, believe it is a serious problem and that it has gotten worse over the last five years.
We know antisemitism doesn’t thrive in a vacuum. Nor does any form of ethnic or religious hatred. For example, during the pandemic, our friends and neighbors in the AAPI community have been relentlessly targeted for all kinds of abuse and violence. Here, too, Minnesota has an opportunity to do better by passing proposed legislation that would improve how our state identifies and responds to incidents of hate.
To complement those efforts, diversity and inclusivity training should be inclusive of Jewish perspectives and sensitivities. The lived experiences of American Jews and antisemitism as a source of hatred in Minnesota and anywhere else enables Jews to be seen and reinforces the notion that antisemitism is everyone’s responsibility to combat.
When it comes to confronting hate – especially antisemitism – there really is strength in numbers.
Jacob Millner is the director of AJC Minneapolis-St. Paul. Ethan Roberts is deputy executive director, Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas.