FBI report reinforces trend that American Jews are ‘top target’ for hate crimes

“Despite our relatively small population, these attacks show no signs of slowing down as our community was targeted the most among religiously motivated crimes,” said Michael Master, national director and CEO of the Secure Community Network.

By Faygie Holt, JNS.org

The latest FBI report on hate crimes shows that the number of incidents continues to rise year to year in the U.S., with 7,759 hate crimes reported in 2020 as compared to 7,517 in 2019, but with fewer crimes categorized as “religiously motivated.”

“Preventing and responding to hate crimes and hate incidents is one of the Justice Department’s highest priorities. The FBI Hate Crime Statistics for 2020 demonstrates the urgent need for a comprehensive response,” said U.S. Attorney General Merrick B. Garland upon the report’s publication Aug. 30. “Last year saw a 6.1 percent increase in hate crime reports, and in particular, hate crimes motivated by race, ethnicity and ancestry, and by gender identity.

“These numbers confirm what we have already seen and heard from communities, advocates and law enforcement agencies around the country,” he continued, adding, “And these numbers do not account for the many hate crimes that go unreported.”

Anti-Jewish bias accounted for 676 incidents — 57 percent of the 1,174 religiously motivated hate crimes in 2020 — aligning with the annual finding that the Jewish community is disproportionately targeted by religiously motivated crimes, given that Jews account for less than 2 percent of the U.S. population. The total number of incidents is down from the 953 anti-Jewish hate crimes reported in 2019, but also occurred a time of national lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This report reminds us all that the Jewish community remains a top target for hate crimes,” said Michael Master, national director and CEO of the Secure Community Network, which describes itself as the “official safety and security organization” of the Jewish community in North America. “Despite our relatively small population, these attacks show no signs of slowing down as our community was targeted the most among religiously motivated crimes. We must continue to work to be as prepared and secure as possible so the Jewish community can continue to thrive.”

Among the incidents against Jews last year, 56 percent targeted individuals directly. Fifty-three percent involved vandalism or property destruction; 33 percent involved intimidation; and 10 percent entailed either simple or aggravated assault.

In other notable findings, more than 120 incidents of anti-Jew hatred in New York State were categorized as destruction, damage or vandalism of property, while 37 incidents were “simple assault.” Of 116 incidents in California, nine were classified as “aggravated assault,” eight as “simple assault” and 80 incidents were destruction, damage or vandalism. In New Jersey, 38 percent of anti-Jew incidents were classified as intimidation, and 8 percent of all bias incidents targeted Jews in the Garden State occurred at either a park or playground, with another 14 percent occurring at an elementary or secondary school.

“Every hate crime is heinous and unacceptable, no matter its target, and we must stand resolutely with any targeted group. Yet the fact that American Jews — who make up no more than 2 percent of the U.S. population — are the targets of nearly 60 percent of religious bias crimes should set off alarm bells,” said David Harris, CEO of American Jewish Committee. “For decades, we have cautioned that anti-Semitism is a rising threat and that it comes from multiple sources, including the far right, the hard left, and Islamist extremists. Fighting Jew-hatred in America must become a national priority and it must be a bipartisan and cross-communal effort.”