Scene of hostage taking in Texas
Scene of hostage taking in TexasREUTERS/Shelby Tauber

Ninety-three percent of American Jews are concerned with the current levels of antisemitism in the United States, with nearly half of U.S. Jews (42%) experiencing antisemitism either directly or through family and friends over the past five years alone, according to a new panel survey commissioned and released today by the Ruderman Family Foundation.

The two-part survey, conducted by the Mellman Group examined 2,500 Jewish American adults in December 2019 and a further 1,000 Jewish adults from October – November 2021. Despite being conducted before the synagogue hostage crisis in Colleyville, Texas, the newly released survey amplifies the renewed fears over antisemitism nationwide in the aftermath of that attack. Seventy-five percent of American Jews believe that there is more antisemitism today in the U.S. than there was five years ago. Almost all American Jews (94%) say they see at least some antisemitism in the U.S. over the past five years. One in three younger Jews (18-39 years old) say they have personally experienced antisemitism and 60% say they know a family or friend who has. Older Jews (over 60 years old) are more likely to have seen “a lot” of antisemitism (62%) than younger Jews (47%).

The survey also explored the notion of shared fate among American Jews. When asked how much they thought what happens to U.S. Jews would have something to do with what happens in their own life, 82% acknowledged a shared fate. Even among those who do not value being Jewish, a majority (65%) feel what happens to other U.S. Jews also has some effect on them. Additionally, the survey found that 9% of those who are uninvolved in the Jewish community view antisemitism as a reason for involvement, showcasing that the issue is strong enough to engage a demographic unconnected to Jewish life.

“Our survey reinforces the urgent need for American leadership to formulate new strategies to confront the surge of antisemitism and increasing hate crimes against the Jewish community,” said Jay Ruderman, President of the Ruderman Family Foundation. “Accordingly, we hope that these findings spur local and national leaders into action on this critical issue. Antisemitism is a threat to American society as a whole and only in tackling this issue as one unified nation will it ever be truly addressed.”

In addition to antisemitism, the survey explored multiple topics pertaining to American Jewry. When it comes to U.S. politics, American Jews perceive both parties as pro-Israel; 69% stating this was the case for the Democratic Party and 71% for the Republican Party. Yet when delving further into this support, the majority see Democrats as pro-Israel but critical of the Israeli government’s policies, while the majority see Republicans as pro-Israel and supportive of its policies. Interestingly, both parties are seen to be moving in opposite directions with their support for Israel, with 54% believing the Democratic Party has become less pro-Israel and 39% stating that the Republican Party has become more pro-Israel.

When exploring their connection to Israel, approximately one-third (34%) of respondents believe the relationship between Israel and U.S. Jews has weakened during the last two years, including 40% of Republicans and 31% of Democrats. Only 12% identified the May 2021 war between Israel and Hamas as a reason for that weakened relationship, with 32% naming the increasing power of right-wing or ultra-religious Israeli political parties, 25% the treatment of Palestinian Arabs, 24% the mutual ties between Netanyahu and former President Donald Trump, and 24% Israel’s settlement policies in Judea and Samaria.

Reinforcing the challenge of American Jews’ gaps in basic knowledge about Israel, 41% of respondents are unaware that Israel’s Arab citizens have voting rights, with 27% incorrectly asserting that Arab citizens cannot vote and 14% stating they were unsure on the topic. Fifty-nine percent correctly identify Naftali Bennett as Israel’s prime minister, with 16% saying that former premier Benjamin Netanyahu still holds the position and 20% unable to recall who is currently prime minister.