The Hate Landscape, and Priorities for 2021

Antisemitism is often referred to as “the canary in the coal mine,” a warning that if one form of hatred is present in society, others likely will follow. It’s certainly true that throughout the history of the Jewish people, the most antisemitic societies were often just as unwelcoming to other marginalized groups. 

In other words, when hatred begins with the Jews but doesn’t end with the Jews.  

So, there’s good reason to be concerned about the current moment in America with antisemitism rising and other forms of hatred and extremism on the rise as well. This is not just worrisome for Jews, but indeed does not portend well for all immigrants and marginalized groups if the trends continue 

Here are some of the trends we’re watching at ADL, and why all need to be on our guard as we move into 2021. 

There have been significant increases in the past four years of both antisemitic incidents and lethal incidents targeting Jews and other marginalized communities. In 2019, the last year for which we have verified statistics, ADL tracked an all-time record of 1,207 antisemitic incidents across the U.S. That was a 12 percent increase from 2018 and the highest number on record since ADL began tracking such incidents in 1979. 

Likewise, violent antisemitism at the hands of extremists has risen substantially in recent years. This includes last year’s white supremacist shooting attack on a synagogue in Poway, California, the stabbings of celebrants at a Hanukkah party in Monsey, New York, the attack on a kosher store in Jersey Cityand the deadly 2018 shooting spree at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, which claimed 11 lives. 

Jews have likewise been singled out in just the past few weeks. A member of a Chabad in Lexington, Kentucky was severely injured at an outdoor Hanukkah menorah-lighting ceremony when a driver shouting antisemitic slurs dragged and ran over him. An Anne Frank memorial in Idaho was vandalized with swastikas. And neo-Nazis launched a cyberattack on a Jewish day school on Long Island. While it’s hard to point to anyone cause behind these disparate attacks, the disturbing proliferation of antisemitic conspiracy theories and Holocaust denial on social media and the internet seems to be fueling or inspiring many of the incidents and trends we are seeing today. 

Rising domestic extremism is another concern in the coming yearIn 2020 alone we’ve witnessed a white supremacist plot to attack power stations in the southeastern U.S.; a number of extremists, including adherents of the Boogaloo movement, attempting to disrupt racial justice protests; and a foiled anti-government militia plot to kidnap the governor of Michigan.  

And then there was last week’s horrifying explosion of violence at our nation’s capital, where pro-Trump extremists stormed the Capitol building, some waving Confederate flags, and others giving voice to antisemitic tropes and displaying hateful antisemitic and racist imagery. 

In 2019, domestic extremists were responsible for the deaths of at least 42 people in the United States in 17 separate incidents, making it the sixth deadliest year on record for domestic extremist-related killings since 1970. This included the deadly white supremacist shooting spree at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, which left 22 people dead and 24 more wounded. The attack targeted Latinx people, making it the second-deadliest attack in modern times against the Latinx community in the U.S., after the Pulse Nightclub shooting. The threat of similar acts of hate-motivated violence has not gone away. 

At ADL, we do not just track antisemitism, but all forms of hate – and we have seen a litany of anti-Black racist attacks, anti-Muslim attacks, anti-Latinx attacks, and anti-LGBTQ+ attacks over the last few years. The year 2019 was the deadliest for hate crimes, according to the latest FBI data, with 51 murders reported. Religion-based hate crimes increased by 63 percent, with 953 hate crimes reported against Jews and 176 crimes reported against Muslims.  

With a new administration in the White House, we have an opportunity to press the reset button. Our leaders set the tone for what is considered acceptable social discourse. The Biden-Harris administration will need to take steps to help stigmatize white supremacist and extremist rhetoric and take other concrete steps to address the threat of domestic extremism.  

On the legislative side, we need Congress to swiftly enact the Khalid Jabara and Heather Heyer No HATE Act, which would authorize incentive grants to improve local and state hate crime training, prevention, and best practices. Likewise, Congress and the new administration should consider crafting laws that will encourage social media platforms to measure and address online hate and harassment. 

State and federal legislators need to ensure that security for all religious institutions – be it a synagogue, mosque, church or Sikh temple – is prioritized in legislation and covered under security grant funding. Specifically, Congress should increase funding for non-profit security grants for synagogues and other houses of worship, schools, and community centers. 

There’s much work to be done. We’ll need allies in this fight, which is why we are so proud to partner with so many national civil rights and interfaith organizations – Like Interfaith Youth Core – who share our goal of a more accepting and diverse America. 

Jonathan A. Greenblatt is CEO and National Director of the Anti-Defamation League.  

If you are looking for a way to become an interfaith leader, work for racial equity and build bridges, please check out our free curriculum "We Are Each Other's" and start your interfaith leadership today

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The opinions contained in this piece are solely the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Interfaith Youth Core. Interfaith America encourages a wide range of views and strives to maintain a respectful tone with a goal of greater understanding and cooperation between people of different faiths, worldviews, and traditions.