American Jews Feeling Less Secure, New Survey Finds

A new survey found that the Hamas attack on Israel on Oct. 7 has had an impact on how secure Jews are feeling in America.

More than 6 in 10 Jewish adults say the status of Jews in the United States is “less secure than a year ago,” according to a survey that is part of the American Jewish Committee’s annual “State of Antisemitism In America” report. That number – 63 percent – represents a 20-point year-over-year increase.

“The results aren’t that surprising as antisemitism is on the rise,” said Sarah van Loon, the AJC’s Midwest regional director. “I am surprised by how much of an increase we see year over year of how many American Jews feel less safe as a Jewish person in America.”

“It’s important to highlight that this year’s report surveyed U.S. adults post-October 7 when anti-Zionist rhetoric and behavior surged across the globe,” said Justin Kirschner, Cincinnati’s AJC Director. 

Additionally, nearly half (46 percent) of American Jews changed their behavior out of fear of antisemitism. AJC CEO Ted Deutch said action needs to be taken right away to address this.

“AJC is calling on Congress and the White House to take decisive action to ensure the full implementation of the U.S. National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism across all sectors of society, including necessary legislation and appointing a national coordinator to continue the important work of addressing antisemitism in America,” Deutch said. “No one should be fearful of being targeted or harassed for being Jewish when walking down the street, going to school, or being at work. We’ve seen that antisemitism has been increasing – even before the horrific October 7 Hamas terrorist attack against Israel. This isn’t a new problem, but the explosion of antisemitism since October 7 demands that we take collective action now.”

The October 7 attacks in Israel have had reverberations in the U.S. The survey found that 78 percent of American Jews who heard about the Hamas terrorist attack in Israel made them feel less safe as a Jewish person in the U.S. One respondent said: “I was at an outdoor vigil mourning the murdered Israelis and three separate times, people drove past yelling out their car window ‘Kill them all’ among other things.”

“Contrary to the mass protests and campus demonstrations across America, what I found most surprising[about the survey] is that 84% of the general US public surveyed believes anti-Zionism is a form of antisemitism, saying the statement “Israel has no right to exist” is antisemitic,” said Kirschner. 

The results of the survey don’t appear to be skewed because of the Oct. 7 attacks. The report says the survey soft-launched on Oct. 5 with the expectation of fully rolling out the next week. The work was paused and questions added to study the impact of Oct. 7 on the American Jewish community. There were 1,528 Jews 18 and older who were surveyed, with 1,412 surveyed after Oct. 7. 

Van Loon said only 8 percent of people took it before Oct. 7.

“What makes the survey unique is that it really captures the very specific moment in time of American Jews healing right after this horrific terror attack that affected us all so much,” she said. “But I wouldn’t say that our sharp increase in numbers was due to the Oct. 7 terror attack. I think it’s just so much more visible. And we’re seeing that now correspond in the general U.S. public more than ever before.”

One of the new questions asked was about how important caring about Israel is to the respondents’ Jewish identity. Nearly 80 percent of American Jews said caring about Israel is important to what being Jewish means to them. About two-thirds of those say the status of Jews in the U.S. is less secure than a year ago.

Younger Jews affected

AJC’s data also showed that 36 percent of American Jews between the ages of 18 and 29  reported being the personal target of antisemitism last year, compared to 22 percent over 30 years old. 

The report also found that college campuses are not immune from antisemitism: 44 percent of Jewish college students have felt antisemitism, with one in five saying they have been excluded from a group or event because they are Jewish, up from 12 percent in last year’s report. 

“This should alarm everyone, especially with the dramatic increase of antisemitic activity on college campuses that has continued into 2024,” Deutch said.

This year’s report is the second time that Jewish issues on campus were surveyed. 

“it is not easy for college students, particularly on campus today,” van Loon said. “What we’re seeing again and again, [the survey data] just reaffirms all of our anecdotal data. But we’re seeing that particularly for young Jewish Americans, they are experiencing more antisemitic incidents, they are targeted for it more. College campus in particular is in such a horrific place.”

Combating Antisemitism

The AJC’s survey findings may leave some feeling anxious about facing rising antisemitism in our communities. To Kirschner, the best way to protect against antisemitism is through education. 

“I would encourage members of our community to familiarize themselves with AJC’s Call to Action Against Antisemitism as well as with resources to understand the ongoing war in Israel and better respond to inflammatory remarks,” he said. 

Other findings

  • Online and on social media with 62 percent of American Jews reporting seeing or hearing antisemitism online or on social media in the past 12 months. That number is down slightly from the two-thirds last year. 
  • Amongst the general American population surveyed, 74 percent said antisemitism is a very serious or somewhat serious problem in the United States today, with 56 percent saying it has increased over the past five years. 
  • The share of Jewish adults who say antisemitism has a lot has grown from 37 percent to 50 percent in the last two years.