According to new data released by Anti-Defamation League (ADL) this week, reported antisemitic incidents in 2021 rose by 25% in New Jersey, reaching 370 total incidents—the highest number ever recorded by ADL in the state and the second-highest number recorded in any state across the country last year.
The 370 incidents in New Jersey constitute 14% of the total number of antisemitic incidents recorded across the United States in 2021 and exceeds the previous record high of 345 in 2019. According to the data, New Jersey experienced increases in antisemitic incidents across in three categories tracked by the ADL: harassment, vandalism and assault.
In total, ADL recorded 252 incidents of harassment, up 34%; 112 incidents of vandalism, rising 7%; and six incidents of assault, tripling the previous years number.
“We are alarmed by the dramatic increase in antisemitic incidents in New Jersey…emblematic of a larger national problem,” said Scott Richman, Regional Director of ADL’s New York/New Jersey office serving Northern and Central New Jersey. “Jewish communities in New Jersey are dealing with record levels of antisemitism, and ADL is working closely with victims, schools, law enforcement, elected officials, and faith and community leaders to help reverse this trend.”
Of the 370 antisemitic incidents recorded in New Jersey in 2020, 123 took place in public areas, 82 took place in non-Jewish K-12 schools, 44 took place at Jewish institutions, 40 occurred at private residences, 35 took place at business establishments, and 29 took place online.
Breakdown by County
Of particular concern were the 44 incidents that took place at Jewish institutions in 13 different counties. Thirty-five percent of all incidents in New Jersey involved the display of a Nazi swastika.
Incidents of antisemitism occurred in 19 of 21 counties in New Jersey. Bergen had the most at 70 incidents, followed by Ocean (44); Middlesex (31); Union (30); and Mercer (39). In North Jersey counties, there were 17 incidents on Passaic, 23 in Morris, 24 in Essex, four in Hudson, five in Sussex and three in Warren.
The report spotlighted the dramatic increase in reported antisemitic incidents in Bergen County in particular, to 70 incidents in 2021 from 35 incidents in 2020. Of the reported incidents, 49 were incidents of harassment and 21 were incidents of vandalism.
ADL officials noted 28 of the incidents involved the display of a swastika, and 24 took place at a K-12 school. In one notable Bergen County incident, a man smashed the windows of a doctor’s office with a hammer and asked patients, “Are you Jewish?”
Use of Swastikas
In 2021, ADL recorded 44 incidents that took place at Jewish institutions in 13 different counties, which represented a 76% increase relative to incidents recorded in 2020. Of the those targeting Jewish institutions, 39 were incidents of harassment, four were incidents of vandalism and one was an incident of assault.
Seven incidents targeting Jewish institutions that involved the display of a swastika. There were five Zoombombings, which targeted Shabbat services, High Holidays services and a shiva. The one assault with a weapon occurred at a Jewish institution, which involved a person attempting to strike a victim with a vehicle in a synagogue parking lot.
Incidents related to Israel or Zionism in New Jersey increased by 35% in 2021, reaching a total of 27 incidents.
Notably, ADL recorded the highest number of antisemitic incidents of 2021 during the month of May, which directly coincided with the escalating conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.
There were 56 incidents documented in New Jersey in May 2021, 86% higher than the state’s average monthly total (30) with 14 included explicit references to Israel or Zionism.
The report noted an incident in Clifton where a sign featuring Nazi imagery was used to condemn Israel at a business establishment. Six of these incidents took the form of White supremacist groups’ propaganda efforts, which attempt to foment anti-Israel and antisemitic beliefs.
The May incidents represented a 180% increase relative to the 20 incidents ADL recorded a year earlier, and a 93% increase relative to the average number of 29 antisemitic incidents reported in New Jersey during the month of May over the last five years.
The trends seen in New Jersey during the month of May were consistent with trends observed nationally. ADL recorded 387 antisemitic incidents across the country during the month of May last year, which was 71% higher than the average monthly total of 226 incidents and 148% higher than the 156 incidents recorded in May 2020.
In 2021, 82 antisemitic incidents were reported in non-Jewish K-12 schools in New Jersey, a 110% increase relative to 2020 when only 39 incidents were recorded. The report says the percentage increase was due in part to remote leaning for most of 2020. In 2019, 97 incidents were recorded in non-Jewish schools.
Of the 82, 40 were incidents of harassment and 42 were incidents of vandalism; 58 incidents involved the use or display of a swastika, and several schools experienced multiple incidents involving swastikas.
“Students across New Jersey deserve a safe school environment, both in person and remotely,” said Richman. “It is disheartening to see the number of antisemitic incidents in K-12 schools bounce back to 2019 levels.”
“Our ultimate goal is helping to create safe and inclusive school climates to ensure that no student suffers from bias, discrimination or hate, and we look forward to continuing our work with educators in New Jersey to help them combat antisemitism and all forms of hate in our schools.”