2023 saw highest number of antisemitic incidents recorded across the country, report says

Driven in part by reactions to the Israel-Hamas war, 2023 saw the highest number of antisemitic incidents against Jewish Americans ever recorded by the Anti-Defamation League since the Jewish civil rights group began tracking attacks in 1979.

The number of antisemitic incidents recorded by the organization far exceeded any other annual tally from the ADL in the past 45 years. The ADL tracked 8,873 incidents of antisemitic assault, harassment and vandalism across the country last year – representing a 140% increase from 2022.

This marks a significant increase from the early 2010s, when antisemitic incidents recorded by the group in the U.S. were at their lowest levels. Since 2014, the annual number of incidents has risen consistently, setting new records in 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022, and now 2023.

"Despite these unprecedented challenges, American Jews must not give into fear,” ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said in a statement. “Even while we fight the scourge of antisemitism, we should be proud of our Jewish identities and confident in our place in American society.”

Kathy Tee holds up a sign condemning antisemitism at a rally for Israel outside the Texas Capitol, Oct. 15, 2023. (Credit: Aaron Martinez/American-Statesman/File)
Kathy Tee holds up a sign condemning antisemitism at a rally for Israel outside the Texas Capitol, Oct. 15, 2023. (Credit: Aaron Martinez/American-Statesman/File)

A rise in hate and controversy

Of the nearly 8,873 incidents the ADL tracked last year, 5,204 of them took place following Hamas’ attack on Israel on Oct. 7, which left 1,200 people dead and hundreds taken hostage.

The ADL said for the first time, antisemitic incidents referencing Israel or Zionism constituted the majority of painful moments recorded by the group. These kinds of incidents accounted for 59% of the record in October and 60% in November, according to the audit.

In total, 36% of incidents the ADL tracked last year directly related to Israel or Zionism. In contrast, only 7% in 2022 included similar references.

An American Jewish Committee report released earlier this year revealed that 78% of Jewish people in the United States said they felt less safe following the Oct. 7 attack.

Hamas' assault last year sparked a sweeping, bloody war in the region. Approximately 30,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israeli's military action in the last six months. The Council on American Islamic Relations also warned earlier this year that it has received 8,061 complaints of Islamophobia in 2023 – nearly half of which were made in the last three months of the year.

More: New report says most American Jews feel less safe in US after Israel-Hamas war

Bomb threats to Jewish institutions increased dramatically

The ADL documented 1,009 bomb threats against Jewish institutions in 2023, marking a dramatic increase. In 2022, the group tracked 91. Of the 1,009 threats last year, 906 targeted synagogues. In December alone, bomb threats targeted 747 synagogues.

The organization's annual audit also pointed to individuals who allegedly contacted law enforcement and crisis hotlines with false claims, resulting in at least 66 instances of what's known as swatting at Jewish institutions last summer. The ADL recorded a total of 104 swatting incidents in 2023.

ADL Center on Extremism Vice President Oren Segal said its documentation had a goal of preventing further activity aiming to terrorize the American Jewish community.

“Our tracking of a swatting network enabled ADL to offer crucial intelligence to law enforcement, ensuring accountability for perpetrators, while also preemptively alerting targeted communities and mitigating potential harm,” Segal said in a statement.

More: Jewish groups increase security after swatting spree of hundreds of false bomb threats

Nov 14, 2023; Washington, DC, USA; Yale University student Sahar Tartak, speaks to members of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Development during a hearing on the rise of antisemitism on college campuses in Washington .. Mandatory Credit: Josh Morgan-USA TODAY ORG XMIT: USAT-740613 ORIG FILE ID: 20231114_ajw_qu0_030.JPG

Antisemitic incidents on campuses tripled in 2023

The ADL's audit revealed that antisemitic incidents increased in multiple settings in 2023, but schools experienced a drastic spike. The number of incidents at K-12 schools increased by 135%, according to the report. The ADL said antisemitic incidents on college campuses increased by 321%, most of which occurred following Oct. 7.

“Antisemitism is nothing short of a national emergency, a five-alarm fire that is still raging across the country and in our local communities and campuses,” Greenblatt said in a statement. “This crisis demands immediate action from every sector of society and every state in the union.”

More: A professor slept in his office to protest antisemitism. He's not the only one.

The ADL audit comes a week after it released a Campus Antisemitism Report Card, in which it gave failing grades to colleges across the country it says have not taken appropriate action to protect Jewish students.

The report card’s release came after three college presidents testified before Congress last year about antisemitism on college campuses and prompted a massive wave of backlash, preceding two of the presidents' resignations. Columbia University president Minouche Shafik will continue the conversation Wednesday, as she has agreed to testify before House lawmakers.

Rachel Barber is a 2024 election fellow at USA TODAY, focusing on politics and education. Follow her on X, formerly Twitter, as @rachelbarber_

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Record number of antisemitic incidents hit US amid Israel-Hamas war