The centuries-old scourge of antisemitism is experiencing a frightening resurgence in modern Massachusetts.
The Anti-Defamation League’s annual report on antisemitic incidents, released Thursday, reported 3,697 incidents nationwide in 2022, the highest number recorded since the organization began collecting data in 1979. Massachusetts had the sixth-most incidents, 152, up from 108 in 2021.
Massachusetts recorded four assaults, including a Jewish student in Waltham whose classmate held a knife to his throat and an Israeli Jew physically assaulted in Boston while the attacker made anti-Jewish and anti-Israeli comments. There were 66 incidents of harassment, including bomb threats to Jewish institutions, and 82 of vandalism, like swastika graffiti. Incidents targeting private homes doubled from 10 to 20. There were 53 incidents at non-Jewish K-12 schools, up from 35 in 2021.
Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, called the growth in antisemitism over the last decade “mind-boggling.” “These incidents are an ugly manifestation of this growing belief in and normalization of antisemitic ideas, anti-Jewish tropes, and ugly conspiracy theories,” Greenblatt said.
Ted Deutch, a former congressman who is CEO of the American Jewish Committee, attributed the rise to societal unrest at a time when influential figures have modeled antisemitism and spread it via social media. The ADL report found that rapper Ye’s antisemitic comments led to 59 incidents where perpetrators referenced Ye. “We know that in challenging times when people are looking for scapegoats, historically the Jews, sadly, have been that people,” Deutch told the Globe editorial board.
Antisemitism has long existed on the far right, and the ADL tracked a surge in activity by white supremacist groups. But antisemitism also emanates from the far left, where anti-Israel sentiments can morph into antisemitism. Hate is hate, regardless of its origin, and American Jews feel increasingly threatened.
A 2021 survey by Jewish campus organization Hillel and the ADL found that 32 percent of Jewish college students had personally experienced antisemitism on campus, while an American Jewish Committee survey released in January found that 18 percent of current and recent Jewish students felt uncomfortable or unsafe at a campus event because of their religion.
The American Jewish Committee survey found that 89 percent of American Jews and 68 percent of the general public think antisemitism is a problem in the United States. One-quarter of Jews reported experiencing antisemitism the prior year, while 39 percent altered their behavior out of concern for their safety as a Jew.
As Jeremy Burton, CEO of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston, says, antisemitism isn’t a Jewish problem, it’s society’s problem.
Jewish communal organizations in Massachusetts are mobilizing, and Bay Staters of all backgrounds must lend support.
One focus is raising awareness of the problem and the need to speak up. New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft’s Foundation to Combat Antisemitism is launching a $25 million nationwide ad campaign Monday with a series of ads featuring non-Jewish Americans supporting Jews in the fight against hatred. Foundation executive director Matthew Berger said the goal is to enlist allies. “The Jewish community is only 2.4 percent of the population,” Berger said. “The idea we alone can solve this problem isn’t realistic.”
Combined Jewish Philanthropies, a Boston-based philanthropic foundation, is developing its own local ad campaign. “Awareness and education are the foundation of everything because if people do not understand a phenomenon like Jew hate, they’re not going to be able to identify it, and they’re certainly not going to be able to do anything about it,” said CJP President and CEO Marc Baker.
Education, in schools and campuses, is also vital, since no student should feel like they have to hide their religion.
Massachusetts is one of 22 states mandating genocide education in middle and high school, a new requirement that should improve Holocaust education as long as schools develop and implement appropriate curriculum. The Jewish Community Relations Council is developing curricula to influence how Jews are portrayed more broadly in K-12 schools, beyond the Holocaust.
Brandeis University recently announced a partnership with Kraft’s foundation that will include convening college administrators and K-12 school leaders for conferences and speakers related to how to respond to antisemitism. Brandeis President Ronald Liebowitz said the pressure on Jewish students often comes from peers, and he worries that as colleges increasingly focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion programs, Jewish students are being excluded — even though Jews are a minority on college campuses and the target of frequent hate.
“Policies need to think about how Jews fit in within the panoply of programming. Now basically they’re not included,” Liebowitz said.
There are steps state government should take. Lawmakers should consider clarifying the state’s hate crimes laws. Governor Maura Healey, when she was attorney general, introduced legislation to simplify the laws, which now make it difficult to charge a hate crime.
The state must continue funding its nonprofit security grant program, which has helped Jewish institutions upgrade security. The governor’s Task Force on Hate Crimes should continue working to monitor and prevent threats. All law enforcement agencies need proper training to respond to hate crimes. State officials must continue to denounce hate-based incidents.
Technology platforms can take a more aggressive approach to enforcing policies about hate speech as applied to antisemitism.
More broadly, countless organizations have in recent years renewed their commitment to diversity, equity, inclusion, and to countering bias and hate, whether through antiracism or eliminating gender bias. It would be a natural step for these organizations to use their DEI programs to take a firm stance against anti-Jewish hate and commit to standing up for Jewish friends and colleagues whenever antisemitism rears its ugly head.
Editorials represent the views of the Boston Globe Editorial Board. Follow us @GlobeOpinion.