November 18, 2019

Poll: Nearly a Third of American Jews Are Afraid to Publicly Wear Jewish Garb

Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

The American Jewish Committee (AJC) released a survey on Oct. 23 showing that nearly a third of American Jews fear wearing Jewish paraphernalia publicly due to rising anti-Semitism in the country.

Forward Opinion Editor Batya Ungar-Sargon highlighted this result from the poll in a tweet, writing, “This country was founded on the principle of freedom of religion. For shame, America.”

The poll, which surveyed 1,283 American Jews from Sept. 11 to Oct. 6, asked respondents, “Have you avoided publicly wearing, carrying, or displaying things that might help people identify you as a Jew?”

Thirty-one percent answered yes, 68% said no. When respondents were asked if they “ever avoid certain places, events, or situations out of concern for your safety or comfort as a Jew,” 25% said yes.

The survey also found that 88% of American Jews view anti-Semitism as a problem in the country and 84% believe it has increased over the past five years. Additionally, 47% said a Jewish institution they were affiliated with had been targeted in an anti-Semitic incident.

On college campuses, 36% said the climate has become more antagonistic toward pro-Israel students over the past year, while 41% said it was about the same. Twenty percent said they or someone they knew had experienced anti-Semitism on college campuses.

When asked about the sources of anti-Semitism, 89% said they viewed the “extreme political right” as an anti-Semitic threat; similarly, 85% said the same about Islamic extremism. However, that number decreased to 64% when asked about the threat that the “extreme political left” poses. Sixty-two percent said they were familiar with the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement and 82% said the movement is mostly anti-Semitic or has some anti-Semitic supporters.

On Israel, 84% said that people who don’t believe in Israel’s right to exist are anti-Semitic; 73% said that saying that Jews are more loyal to Israel than to America is anti-Semitic.

Additionally, 73% of American Jews don’t think that President Donald Trump has handled the issue of anti-Semitism well.

AJC Director of Media Relations Kenneth Bandler wrote in an Oct. 23 Fox News op-ed that politicians across the country should examine the results of the AJC poll and “develop strategies aimed at stamping out this seemingly entrenched hatred. Anti-Semitism, we know from history, may begin with Jews, but ultimately threatens other minorities, and potentially the fabric of America’s pluralistic democracy.”

AJC Managing Director of Global Communications Avi Mayer wrote in an Oct. 23 USA Today op-ed that the AJC is launching their #ShowUpForShabbat campaign to commemorate the Tree of Life synagogue shooting that occurred in Oct. 2018.

“Elected officials will deliver impassioned speeches and sign powerful proclamations, vowing to stamp out the scourge of anti-Semitism,” Mayer wrote. “But come Monday, how many will do what is necessary — confronting the sources of hate within their own political camps, challenging anti-Semitism even when uncomfortable or inconvenient, and reaching across the aisle to jointly build a safer nation for Jews and people of all faiths?”