Annual ADL Audit Shows Massive Increase in Antisemitism in US and PA

Graffiti at Nana’s Kitchen in Narberth (Screenshot from Facebook)

Antisemitic incidents of assault, harassment and vandalism in the United States increased 140% to 8,873 in 2023, according to the Anti-Defamation League’s annual audit.

And that’s dwarfed by the same kinds of antisemitic incidents in Pennsylvania, which rose 246% to 394 in 2023, also according to the ADL’s report.

Both numbers were the highest ever recorded since the ADL began its audit in 1979. Nationally, 5,204 incidents happened after Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel. The 12-month total for 2023 surpassed the previous three years combined, according to the report.

Incidents happened in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. Targeting of Jewish institutions such as synagogues and JCCs increased by 237%. Antisemitic activity went up 321% on college and university campuses and 135% in non-Jewish K-12 schools.

In summation, this was the worst year for antisemitic incidents in modern American history. Antisemitism reached an unprecedented level after Oct. 7. And Jews now face antisemitism wherever they live, study and gather.

Is there any other way to interpret this report?

“There isn’t,” said Andrew Goretsky, the regional director of the ADL’s Philadelphia office.

“We’re talking about a 321% increase compared to five years ago,” he added. “We’re talking about an 842% increase from 10 years ago.”

“And regionally, it’s the same thing,” he concluded, referring to ADL Philadelphia’s territory of eastern Pennsylvania, South Jersey and Delaware.

That said, Goretsky, who lives in Whitemarsh Township, remains optimistic. After several recent high-profile antisemitic incidents in the Philadelphia area, political leaders, police officers and residents have shown support for the Jewish community.

“Free Gaza” was spray-painted along a sidewall outside Israeli-owned Nana’s Kitchen in Narberth. Police responded. Hundreds of residents showed up to a supportive rally. Mayor Andrea Deutsch spoke at that rally.

A swastika was spray-painted on a pro-Israel sign outside Temple Beth Hillel-Beth El in Wynnewood. Again, the police responded. More than 1,000 people, including non-Jewish residents and religious leaders, showed up at a prayer service in the temple’s sanctuary about a week later. Gov. Josh Shapiro, who is Jewish, also sent out a supportive tweet.

All of this is reason for optimism, according to Goretsky.

“We still also see many individuals in the government who are reacting to this,” he said. “We see many individuals in the community standing up against this.”

The ADL report included a call to action: All 50 states must now make like the federal government and adopt a strategy to counter antisemitism. Goretsky also said that Jewish communities must “continue our alliances, look at legislative action and enhance security.”

A vandalized sign outside Temple Beth Hillel-Beth El in Wynnewood (Courtesy of Temple Beth Hillel-Beth El)

Shapiro has called for increasing funding for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program in Pennsylvania’s next budget. The program supports many synagogues in the Philadelphia area. Goretsky agrees.

“We have to ensure there’s funding for nonprofit security grants,” he said.

But perhaps even more than the institutional, the ADL director emphasized the personal. Individual Jews need to remain vigilant and act.

First, they must report incidents to the police and the ADL. That helps fight and understand such incidents. Jews also need to “promote positive narratives, demonstrate pride in our identity, speak out against antisemitism and hate and educate ourselves and others,” Goretsky said.

“Personal action matters here,” he added.

But so does ongoing institutional action.

Synagogues must continue reviewing their security processes to make sure they’re adequate, according to Goretsky. They also should engage with local school boards and township leaders.

There were 10 bomb threats on Philadelphia-area synagogues in 2022. That increased to 51 in 2023.

“Even though all of these in our region turn into hoaxes or false narratives, we still have to take them seriously,” Goretsky said. “It does instill fear and anxiety in the community.”

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