New polls show three quarters of American Jews feel unsafe following Oct. 7th

Nearly half of American Jews (46%) have said they avoid outward displays of their Judaism.

By Andrew Bernard, JNS

More than three-quarters of U.S. Jews report feeling less safe as Jews in the United States after Hamas’s Oct. 7 terrorist attacks in southern Israel, according to the American Jewish Committee’s 2023 survey of antisemitism in America.

The AJC began polling American Jews on Oct. 5, but after Oct. 7, the nonprofit opted to pause its questionnaire. It relaunched on Oct. 17, conducting surveys until Nov. 21.

The AJC released the survey, which it has conducted of Jews since 2019, and of Jews and the general public in parallel since 2020. It released the latest survey of 1,528 Jewish American adults on Tuesday.

Of those surveyed after Oct. 7, a whopping 98% self-reported being aware of the attack. Among those who were aware, some 20% feel a “great deal” less safe as Jews because of the attack. Nearly a quarter (23%) feel a “fair amount” less safe and 34% “a little” less safe, according to the survey.

Behavior change

The poll found sharp increases in the number of Jews who said that in the past year, they have felt less safe or changed their behavior out of fear of Jew hatred.

Nearly two-thirds of American Jews (63%) told the AJC that the status of Jews in the United States is less secure than it was a year ago, compared with just 31% of Jews who reported that two years prior. (In 2022, 41% said the country was less secure for Jews than the prior year.)

Nearly half of American Jews (46%) said they have either avoided identifying themselves as Jews in online posts or by their clothing choices or have forgone places or events out of concern for their safety or comfort as Jews. That’s up from 38% who said in 2022 that they did at least one of those things.

A quarter of American Jews also reported having been the target of an antisemitic remark, vandalism or physical attack in the past year, which is “virtually identical” to AJC’s findings from 2022, the nonprofit said.

Ted Deutch, AJC’s CEO, told JNS in a statement that the new findings should alarm all Americans, as well as spur action from Congress and the White House.

“No one should be fearful of being targeted or harassed for being Jewish when walking down the street, going to school or being at work,” Deutch stated. “We’ve seen that antisemitism has been increasing—even before the horrific Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attack against Israel. This isn’t a new problem, but the explosion of antisemitism since Oct. 7 demands that we take collective action now.”

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General public

The AJC also released a companion poll on Tuesday that it conducted from Oct. 17 to 24. In the second poll, the AJC surveyed the general public of American adults about their opinions on antisemitism.

Nearly three-quarters (74%) of respondents reported believing that Jew hatred is a problem in the United States today, compared with 60% who held that view in 2021. That’s in sharp contrast to the 93% of American Jews who believe that antisemitism is a problem in the country today. More than half of U.S. Jews (53%) said antisemitism today is a “very serious” issue.

Like other recent polling, the AJC general public survey also suggests that younger American adults, aged 18 to 29, have concerning attitudes towards Jews and antisemitism.

Americans under 30 are less likely (65%) than older Americans (75%) to consider antisemitism to be a problem today. Those aged 18 to 29 are also considerably less likely (40%) than over-30s (60%) to believe that antisemitism in the United States has increased in the past five years.

Younger Jews are both likelier than their older peers to say that they have experienced antisemitism in the past year (36% to 22%) and to believe that antisemitism is not a “very serious” problem in the United States (44% to 55%).

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The AJC found differences in which American Jews reported being victims of antisemitism. Those who self-identified as Orthodox were more than twice as likely (39%) to have been the target of antisemitism in the past year than those who are secular (19%). Those who identified with other Jewish denominations reported being the target of Jew-hatred at a rate of 26%.

Deutch said that the findings show the need to implement the Biden administration’s national strategy to combat antisemitism.

“Now that we have this road map, we need to be sure to use it,” he stated. “The strategy can no longer be seen as a recommendation, but rather a requirement that will help protect the American Jewish community.”