New York Leads the Nation in Antisemitic Incidents; Assaults Surge to All-Time High
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today released new data showing that in 2021, New York maintained its lead in total reported antisemitic incidents across the United States. The 416 incidents documented by ADL represented a 24% increase relative to incidents reported in 2020, when ADL recorded 336 incidents in the state, and accounted for an astounding 15% of the total reported antisemitic incidents across the country. Included in the data were 51 incidents of antisemitic assault – the highest number of antisemitic assaults ever recorded by ADL in New York – representing a staggering 325% increase relative to the 12 assaults recorded in 2020 and a significant 46% increase relative to the 35 assaults recorded in 2019, and accounting for 57% of antisemitic assaults recorded nationwide. In addition, ADL saw notable increases in incidents of antisemitic harassment, vandalism, and incidents involving swastika symbols in New York last year. Taken together, these incidents increased by 20% in 2021, from 153 in 2020 to 183 in 2021. Nationally, reported antisemitic incidents in 2021 reached an all-time high of 2,717 incidents, a 34% increase in incidents since 2020, and a 29% increase in incidents since 2019.
“The alarming uptick in antisemitic incidents in our state should be deeply concerning to all – Jews and those outside of the Jewish community,” said Scott Richman, Regional Director, ADL New York/New Jersey. “The fact that these incidents included an unprecedented number of vicious assaults – frequently targeting visibly Jewish individuals on the streets of New York, including young children, is incredibly disturbing. The message that this data is sending us is clear: antisemitism, like other forms of hate, is not going away, and we must proactively work together to protect our community by combating antisemitic statements and behavior before they lead to even more violence. In order to achieve a more compassionate, inclusive and safe New York and fight the normalization of hate, we must recommit ourselves to working with government, educational institutions, intergroup partners and law enforcement in collaborative ways.”
Since 1979, ADL has documented antisemitism through its annual Audit of Antisemitic Incidents.
In 2021, ADL’s Audit revealed the following in New York State:
- 183 incidents of harassment
- 182 incidents of vandalism
- 161 incidents involving swastikas; and
- 51 incidents of assault, the highest number of reported antisemitic assaults in New York State on record.
Of note was a sharp increase in reported incidents targeting Jewish institutions – an increase of 41%, from 44 incidents in 2020 to 62 in 2021. Of the 62 incidents, 22 incidents were acts of vandalism (an increase of 38% relative to the 16 incidents recorded in 2020), and 32 were incidents of harassment (an increase of 14% relative to the 28 incidents recorded in 2020).
Jewish institutions, including synagogues, temples, Jewish schools, Jewish museums, Jewish day camps, and Jewish Community Centers in 11 different counties were targets of either antisemitic harassment or vandalism, with 12 incidents occurring over Zoom and 7 incidents involving the use or display of a Nazi swastika. Seven incidents were physical assaults, and 3 involved bomb threats.
Of the 416 antisemitic incidents reported in New York State in 2021, over half, 215 incidents, occurred in public areas, 62 occurred in Jewish institutions, 39 took place in non-Jewish K-12 institutions, and 39 occurred in business establishments. Thirty-nine percent of all reported incidents involved the display of a Nazi swastika, which has served as the most significant and notorious of hate symbols of antisemitism and white supremacy for a very sizeable proportion of the world. The majority of total reported incidents took place during Q2 (April, May, June), with many events in May coinciding with the May 2021 conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. Incidents recorded during Q2 in particular increased 120% – from 64 incidents reported in Q2 of 2020 to 141 incidents reported in Q2 of 2021.
Of the total number of antisemitic incidents recorded across New York State, 63% took place in the five boroughs of New York City. Of the 260 antisemitic incidents documented in New York City, 106 were incidents of vandalism and 90 were incidents of harassment. Forty-eight were incidents of assault, meaning that 94% of the 51 total reported antisemitic assaults in New York State took place in New York City.
Reported antisemitic incidents in the five boroughs increased by 144% in the Bronx and by 33% in Manhattan and Queens, and decreased by 7% in Brooklyn and 48% in Staten Island. Reported antisemitic incidents also increased on Long Island and in Westchester and Rockland Counties, by 23%, 28%, and 100% respectively.
Antisemitic incidents by area:
- Manhattan: 109
- Brooklyn: 84
- Queens: 32
- Bronx: 22
- Staten Island: 13
- Long Island: 69 [Nassau: 32; Suffolk: 37]
- Westchester: 23
- Rockland: 8
- Upstate: 54
During 2021, ADL tracked or responded to antisemitic incidents in 33 counties of New York State, an increase of 43% as compared to the 23 counties with reported antisemitic incidents in 2020.
Of the alarming 51 total antisemitic assaults that were reported in New York State in 2021, over half (34) took place in Brooklyn, which continues to be a hotspot for antisemitic activity. Twelve additional assaults took place in Manhattan. The majority of assaults were recorded during Q2 and Q4 of 2021, with 2 reported assaults in Q1, 18 reported assaults in Q2, 10 reported assaults in Q3, and 21 reported assaults in Q4.
Though the shocking 325% increase in assaults since 2020 may partially be due to the relaxation of strict public health guidelines put in place in March 2020 at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, reported assaults still increased significantly (by 46%) relative to 2019 – when ADL documented 35 assaults. Fourteen of the 51 assaults (27%) took place in the months of May and June, during and immediately following the escalation of violence in Israel in May of 2021.
Many of the antisemitic assaults recorded in 2021 were brutal in nature and included instances where antisemitic statements were yelled while victims were shoved, beaten, choked, chased, threatened or struck with knives, cars, fireworks, or other objects. In one incident in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, a visibly Jewish man was shot at with a BB gun while walking down a sidewalk. At least 8 of the antisemitic assaults included victims who were children. Six of the incidents involved the victims’ hats, and wigs or yarmulkes (traditional religious head coverings) being knocked off or stolen.
Incidents Targeting Orthodox Jews
Incidents targeting Orthodox Jews throughout New York State increased at an alarming rate, with New York City, particularly Brooklyn, serving as the epicenter. Incidents ranged from swastika graffiti and other forms of vandalism, to antisemitic slurs and insults targeting Jewish people, with many culminating in physical attacks.
In one instance, a knife-wielding individual in Manhattan attacked a Hasidic family of three, injuring both the parents and their 1-year-old child. In another attack at a Jewish summer camp in upstate New York, an individual yelled antisemitic expletives and threw fireworks from a passing vehicle at a group of Jewish teenagers. During a single weekend in November, a group of teenagers assaulted multiple Jewish victims, ranging in ages from 3 to 18, slapping, punching and throwing them to the ground in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Also in November, a man approached a visibly Jewish woman, said “you people are disgusting,” and threw an unknown liquid substance in her face. Furthermore, in another instance at a public hearing in Rockland County, one speaker alluded to Orthodox Jews and said, “and if I run one of them over…of course I’m going to back over them again.” His comments were later denounced by several town officials.
Israel & Zionism Related Incidents
Of the 416 antisemitic incidents recorded in New York State in 2021, 45, or 11%, included explicit references to Israel or Zionism. Over half of these incidents, 53%, were documented during the month of May, when there was a significant uptick in incidents that coincided with the escalating conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. Of the 59 incidents recorded in May of 2021 in New York State, 24, or 41%, were related to Israel and/or Zionism. These 59 incidents represented a stark, 181% increase relative to the 21 total incidents reported in May of 2020. The 59 incidents also represented a notable 74% increase relative to the average number of antisemitic incidents reported in New York during the month of May over the last 5 years [34 incidents]. Incidents related to Israel and Zionism documented in 2021 included instances where:
- Perpetrators made statements that were critical of Israel while targeting victims on the basis of their Jewish identity and, in some cases, threatened to physically harm them; and
- Perpetrators chased, beat, choked and threw fireworks at visibly Jewish victims while making statements that were related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, such as “Israel killed my children, I’m going to kill you,” “F*cking Zionists,” “F*ck Jews Free Palestine,” and “Die, Zionist.”
Physical assaults related to Israel or Zionism included incidents where a man wearing an IDF sweatshirt was punched and called a “dirty Jew” when he refused to remove his sweatshirt, a man was beaten and choked by a group who demanded he say, “Free Palestine,” and a visibly Jewish child’s arm was shaken while a man yelled at the child, asking why the child and his friends were “killing kids in Gaza.”
A total of 39 antisemitic incidents in New York in 2021 were recorded in K-12 schools (excluding Jewish schools). This number represented a 105% increase relative to the 19 incidents recorded in 2020 (likely due in part to the suspension of in-person classes during the pandemic), and a 10% decrease relative to the 43 incidents recorded in 2019. Notwithstanding this decrease relative to 2019, antisemitic incidents in K-12 schools appear to have generally returned to pre-pandemic levels, which is a continuation of a disturbing trend of antisemitic incidents increasingly affecting youth.
The vast majority of reported incidents in this category, 28, involved acts of vandalism, which was nearly double the 15 incidents recorded in 2020. Acts of harassment, at 9, represented a 125% increase relative to the 4 recorded in 2020 and a 29% increase relative to the 7 recorded in 2019.
Fifteen antisemitic incidents were recorded on college and university campuses in New York in 2021 – the same number recorded in 2020.
- Harassment: 10 incidents
- Vandalism: 3 incidents
- Assaults: 1 incident
Of note, however, was the increase in incidents of harassment on college campuses last year – from 2 incidents in 2020 to 10 incidents in 2021. These incidents included 3 Zoombombings and incidents of verbal harassment targeting visibly Jewish students.
There were three incidents of vandalism on college campuses in the New York area in 2021. This included incidents such as a swastika being drawn on an academic building on NYU’s campus. There was one recorded incident of assault in 2021.
In 2021, 62 antisemitic incidents in New York were reported as having taken place in Jewish institutions – representing a 41% increase relative to the 44 incidents reported in 2020. Within this category, reported acts of antisemitic vandalism in particular increased by 38%, with 22 reported incidents of vandalism in 2021 compared to 16 in 2020.
Of the 22 incidents targeting Jewish institutions that were documented in the Bronx in 2021, 5 involved the arrest of an individual in connection with the vandalism of several synagogues in Riverdale, an enclave of the Bronx that is home to a vibrant Jewish community.
Incidents that took place at Jewish institutions in New York in 2021 included:
- The assault of a Jewish man standing outside a synagogue by a person who yelled antisemitic slurs including, “f*cking Jews”;
- The targeting of a group of children attending a Jewish camp by an individual who drove by and threw a firecracker at the group while repeatedly yelling “f*ck Jews”;
- Vandalism at a synagogue by a man who broke in, threw two Torahs on the ground and stole Torahs and Torah crowns from the building; and
- The Zoombombing of 12 synagogues’ virtual religious services and classes with antisemitic comments and imagery.
In 2021, private residences were by no means immune from antisemitic incidents. Though the 35 incidents recorded in New York represented a 26% decrease relative to the 47 incidents recorded in 2020, the incidents in 2021 were extremely troublesome and included the use of swastikas to damage property and evoke fear, the tearing of a mezuzah from a Jewish resident’s doorpost, and the harassment of Jewish neighbors with antisemitic comments. In one particularly concerning incident that took place in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, a Jewish family’s home was shot at with a BB gun.
Last year, 39 antisemitic incidents were documented as having taken place at New York business establishments, an increase of 5% relative to the 37 incidents recorded in 2020. Reported incidents included bomb threats and threatening phone calls harassing Jewish or Israeli businesses, the use of swastikas and other forms of hateful vandalism, and business proprietors and other employees engaging in antisemitic rhetoric aimed at other employees or customers. In one instance, a Jewish employee was called a “f*cking Jew” by their supervisor while at their place of employment. In an email exchange with a Jewish customer, a company representative wrote, “Why are you acting like a Jew?” There were also multiple reported incidents where confrontations became physical, including:
- An individual threw furniture, yelled at patrons, and punched a Jewish person in the head at a Kosher pizza restaurant;
- Two men punched and kicked another man outside of a nightclub while yelling, “F*cking Jews! Jews shouldn’t exist!”;
- Two men threatened a teen outside of a gas station with a knife and made anti-LGBTQ+ and antisemitic statements; and
- An individual threw a stick at a Jewish victim and made antisemitic statements at a business establishment in Manhattan.
White supremacist groups continued to maintain an active presence in New York in 2021, using propaganda to communicate their hateful messages more broadly and recruit new members. In 2021, ADL documented 212 distribution incidents in New York State. This represented a 45% decrease relative to the 308 incidents recorded in the state in 2020. Of these, 20 incidents involved propaganda that contained overtly antisemitic statements or imagery – though the potential for all types of white supremacist propaganda to provoke fear and anxiety in Jewish communities should not be discounted. In 2021, 8 of the 20 antisemitic propaganda distributions had connections to one group, the New Jersey European Heritage Association, a New Jersey-based white supremacist group that espouses racism, antisemitism and intolerance under the guise of “saving” white European peoples from purported imminent extinction. Four were connected to Folkish Resistance Movement, formerly known as Folksfront, a virulently racist and antisemitic group that is the most active neo-Nazi group on the West Coast and maintains close alliances with many other hate groups.
Underreporting continues to be a challenge in many communities, as victims of bias crimes and antisemitic incidents – particularly those in marginalized communities – face significant barriers to reporting in the first instance. Last year, despite a 93% increase in reporting north of Rockland and in Westchester County, ADL received reports from only 33 of 62 counties across the state. Considering that New York is home to the largest Jewish population in the country, this data is concerning, and we urge the public to be vigilant in reporting incidents to ADL, Law Enforcement and Civilian agencies around the state.
At the same time, we know that there is significant underreporting of hate crimes to the FBI, particularly where reporting remains voluntary by law enforcement agencies. Moreover, in 2020 (the most recent year for which FBI hate crime data is available), just 14% of participating agencies in New York reported one or more hate crimes to the FBI. ADL continues to work with elected officials, law enforcement leaders and community members across New York to tackle these problems head-on.
To read about methodology and learn how ADL is responding, view the full report at: https://nynj.adl.org/news/2021-audit-ny/.
ADL is a leading anti-hate organization. Founded in 1913 in response to an escalating climate of antisemitism and bigotry, its timeless mission is to protect the Jewish people and to secure justice and fair treatment for all. Today, ADL continues to fight all forms of hate with the same vigor and passion. ADL is the first call when acts of antisemitism occur. A global leader in exposing extremism, delivering anti-bias education and fighting hate online, ADL’s ultimate goal is a world in which no group or individual suffers from bias, discrimination or hate. More at www.adl.org.