For American Jews, 2023 was yet another year of rising hate

By Andrew Adler

Anyone doubting the fraught nature of contemporary American Jewish life need only to scan the Anti-Defamation League’s recently released annual Audit of Antisemitic Incidents to be reminded – via statistic after sobering statistic – that we are living in a world of abundant hurt and hate.

“In 2023, ADL tabulated 8,873 antisemitic incidents across the United States,” begins a summary of findings announced April 16. “This represents a 140% increase from the 3,698 incidents recorded in 2022 and is the highest number on record since ADL began tracking antisemitic incidents in 1979. In fact, ADL tracked more incidents in 2023 than in the previous three years combined.”  

More specifically, “incidents increased in all major Audit categories. Assault incidents increased by 45% to 161 incidents, vandalism increased 69% to 2,177 incidents and harassment increased 184% to 6,535 incidents.”  

Not surprisingly, October 7 was the tipping-point impetus for the sharpest jump in such occurrences. “Between October 7 and the end of 2023, ADL tabulated 5,204 incidents — more than the incident total for the whole of 2022.” Indeed, “after October 7, ADL observed explicitly antisemitic and anti-Zionist rhetoric at 1,352 anti-Israel rallies across the United States. Leaving out all Israel-related incidents, antisemitic incidents still rose by 65% to 5,711 over the 3,457 non-Israel-related incidents recorded in 2022.”  

That’s a lot of numbers, and I wouldn’t blame you if your eyes began to glaze over amid this panoply of depressing data points. The ADL’s results confirm – not that there was any real doubt – how our nation has fragmented into hyper-divisive identity groups. They regard Jews at best with suspicion, and at worst with pure, unabashed hatred…”This represents a remarkable reversal from the early 2010s, when antisemitic incidents were at some of the lowest levels in the history of the Audit.”  

Consider what that means. In scarcely more than a decade, we’ve gone from a reality defined by relative tolerance and respect between Jews and non-Jews, to a skewed circumstance in which Jewish Americans all too often find themselves under siege.  

Tellingly, ADL refined its statistical methodology in the wake of the October 7 attacks by Hamas, “when we saw an explosion of anti-Israel activism that incorporated expressions of opposition to Zionism, as well as support for resistance against Israel or Zionists that could be perceived as supporting terrorism or attacks on Jews, Israelis or Zionists.  

“When they occur during public activism (such as at protests), in confrontations between individuals or in the form of vandalism (such as graffiti), these expressions constitute an implicit attack on the great majority of American Jews who view a relationship with Israel to be an important part of their religious, cultural and/or social identities. Such rhetoric can be traumatizing to many American Jews and has led to their exclusion from some spaces simply because of that element of how they define and express their Jewishness.”  

Two elements stand out here. The first alludes to how the word “Zionism” – rooted in the late 19th-century movement by European Jews to establish a homeland free of endemic persecution – has been demonized into a synonym for apartheid occupation and accusations of genocide. The second reflects how the mere act of attending a synagogue service has become an exercise of risk versus reward.  

These double flashpoints are indicative of how suspicion and antagonism surge forward in spasms of overwrought rhetoric – rhetoric that can easily descend into raw, undisguised and unapologetic violence, or threat of violence. We see it on our streets, and on college campuses where some Jewish students no longer feel safe, as protests over the war in Gaza become a conduit for outright hatred. The ADL Audit confirms what so many of us already know: to be Jewish is to be a potential target of America’s darkest impulses.  

You can read the complete Audit online at 


A personal note: If you read JCRC Director Matt Golden’s guest contribution in this space last month, you know that on March 19, I suffered a heart attack and underwent an emergency quadruple coronary artery bypass graft at Norton Audubon Hospital. The succeeding weeks have been a considerable challenge, and there are more to come. But I have been bolstered – physically, mentally and spiritually – by the extraordinary expressions of support from my wonderful colleagues, family, friends, clergy, and numerous others. To all of you – I offer thanks, peace, and the hope for mutual serenity.  


Andrew Adler is Managing Editor of Community. To contact Andrew, email him at 


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