A Jewish girl getting off a school bus narrowly avoids a glass bottle hurled at her by someone yelling “F—king Jew!”
A Jewish man is chased by attackers who push him into a glass window, screaming “Die, Zionist!” and “F—k you, Zionist!”
A Jewish individual is assaulted by a man shouting remarks denigrating Jews and minimizing the Holocaust.
A man backs his minivan into a group of five Hasidic Jews ranging in age from 11 to 82.
Three Jewish children are assaulted including a three-year-old, who is slapped in the face.
What are we to make of these numbers, behind each of which stands or cowers a human life, targeted solely on the basis of religion?
This year’s Anti-Defamation League (ADL) Audit of Antisemitic Incidents paints a grim picture of hate in the land of the free. The 2,717 reported incidents in 2021 mark a spike of 34% over the previous year and are the largest number of reported incidents of harassment, vandalism and assault since the ADL began tracking antisemitic incidents 43 years ago.
Jewish institutions—synagogues, community centers, schools—likewise were targeted resulting in soaring statistics of hate. A 124% increase in incidents in non-Jewish K-12 schools is bad enough, but likely does not paint the full picture. Per the report, “Given the insidious nature of bullying, compounded by the fact that many children may not feel empowered to report their experiences, it is likely that the actual number of antisemitic incidents taking place in school was significantly higher than the data reported in the Audit.”
Synagogues tallied 327 separate instances of hate, putting the total attacks on Jewish institutions up 61% from the previous year.
To be sure, the usual suspects—white supremacist groups that we prefer not to dignify by name—are at fault in a significant number of these incidents (18%) but they are far outnumbered by the remaining 82% of incidents whose bloody footprints lead to non-extremists or “unknowns.”
What are we to make of these numbers, behind each of which stands or cowers a human life, targeted solely on the basis of religion? What are we to make of the fact that the overwhelming majority of these incidents were perpetrated by, in ADL’s stark description, “just regular people?”
The USCIRF’s annual report, released just a day ahead of the ADL’s, paints a similarly grim picture of hate and its byproducts.
Aside from the usual exhortations to be vigilant, to report, and to be prepared—as in the case of the Orthodox Jew in Antwerp who, when attacked, expertly tackled his assailant, flung him to the ground and held him there until the police arrived—there is another vital factor to be considered. That vital factor was best expressed by United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) commissioner Tony Perkins who observed, “Antisemitism is the canary in the coal mine that is the harbinger of more religious freedom violations coming up.”
The USCIRF’s annual report, released just a day ahead of the ADL’s, paints a similarly grim picture of hate and its byproducts—abuse, vandalism, violence—all in upward trends, all showing a world appearing to put out the lamps of tolerance and kindness, welcoming viciousness and cruelty.
But the wisp of hope is this: when one is informed, one can do something about it. When one knows nothing, one can do nothing.
We know, so we can do.
Or as ADL National Director Jonathan Greenblatt observed, “I know this increase in antisemitism and hate can feel disheartening. But I also see it as a galvanizing call to action. We cannot give up the fight.”