At least 85 percent of Americans in 2022 believe in at least one antisemitic phrase, according to surveys conducted by the Anti-Defamation League. That is a significant rise from 61 percent who were surveyed in 2019.
The ADL Center for Antisemitic research conducted a survey last year trying to find if social media and other influences in today’s culture have changed. They found 11 conspiracy theories related to Jewish people and that 20 percent of respondents actually believed them.
“When we look at the data, it shows the anti-Jewish conspiracy theory of belief and negative sentiments toward Israel,” Scott Richman, the regional director of ADL, the leading anti-hate organization in the world, said during a news conference Monday.
Richman assumes the masked man who threw a Molotov cocktail at the front door of a Bloomfield, New Jersey, synagogue Saturday night is one of those conspiracy believers. The incident happened a day after Holocaust Remembrance Day.
Conspiracy theories can be more dangerous than meets the eye, especially over the last couple of months. One such theorist is Kanye West, the rapper who blamed the Jewish community for controlling Hollywood.
“He has millions of followers, and it validates the belief system of those who are already previously infected with antisemitic beliefs,” Richman said.
Newsweek found that the singer/songwriter had an increase in social media followers — more than 67,000 — after he sent and reposted antisemitic posts.
In other data, the organization found that roughly 50 million Americans felt uncomfortable being in the same room with a Zionist, a person who believes in the development and protection of a Jewish nation in what is now Israel.
On Monday, the organization teamed up with Democratic U.S. Rep. Ritchie Torres at a news conference at The Riverdale Y to protect the Jewish community from such antisemitic remarks and violent actions.
According to police data, Torres said the Jewish community is the main target of hate crime in New York City.
“Antisemitism is not only the burden of the Jewish community,” he said. “It is an obligation that binds each and every one of us. We each have a duty to stand up and to speak out against antisemitism wherever, whenever, and however it appears.”
“We have a duty to stand with our Jewish brothers and sisters here in Riverdale and elsewhere in the United States and elsewhere in the world, including the State of Israel.”
The congressman also announced $300 million in federal grants has been put toward the nonprofit security grant program. The program funds the most vulnerable institutions like synagogues and Jewish day schools to protect them against hate crimes and domestic terrorism.
“Even though the program is important, it’s only part of the solution,” Torres said.
“It only addresses the violence, which is the symptom.”
Both private and public institutions can apply for those funds.
Within schools, Richman said the key to put out the fuel of hate is to create anti-hate programs.
“The idea that we have anti-bias programs in the school’s anti-hate, anti-bullying, Holocaust education programs, all of these things will help create a better world and future where people learn how to respect one another,” he said.
The principal of the Salanter Akiba Riverdale Academy and several students showed up to the press conference to give their take on what they believe needs to be done.
“I don’t want to be here, and I certainly don’t want my students to be here. I don’t want to walk up the block from our school and explain to them we’re taking time off instead of learning or playing ball,” said SAR principal Rabbi Bini Krauss.
The academy is partnering with a local charter school, Atmosphere Academy, on a program called “names not numbers.”
During this initiative, 50 charter school students join 100 SAR students. Together they learn how to interview holocaust survivors.
At the Yad Vashem, the world Holocaust remembrance center, archivists are racing to find survivors and victims. In 2020, some 75 years after the liberation of concentration camps like Auschwitz there were just 400,000 Holocaust survivors who fled or survived the Nazis.
SAR student Ori Mandel said antisemitism is “hurtful” and has sadly become a part of living in a Jewish community, and they are forced to accept it because it is worsening.
“Personally, I don’t think any of us (SAR students) experience so much antisemitism, but to know what’s going on is very sad because it shows how its widely spread,” said academy student Erin Burian.
As data shows a noticeable uptick in Jewish hate crimes from four years ago, it is unsure how the funding will decrease antisemitism. But the first step the congressman believes there needs to be improvement in social media, which is a leading driver of hate.
As a member of Congress, Torres told The Riverdale Press he needs to ask himself how do you regulate social media so that you rein in extremism without running afoul of the First Amendment.