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2017 Annual Assessment

In light of both a resurgence of anti-Semitism in Europe and the efforts of EU member country governments to redress it, there is a need for an integrative Anti-Semitism Index that can provide Israeli policy-makers and the leaders of Jewish organizations worldwide with a policy tool to monitor developments, facilitate decision-making, and assess the efficacy of implemented interventions.

Existing measurement tools have been limited to discrete aspects of the phenomenon, single pieces of the anti-Semitism puzzle. Some examine public opinion while others count and verify incidents of violence against or harassment of Jews. Occasional field studies have examined how Jews themselves perceive anti-Semitism.

JPPI’s Anti-Semitism Index for Europe is presented here for the third consecutive year. Prior to the 2016 U.S. presidential election, anti-Semitism seemed to be primarily a European problem. Economic malaise, fear of immigrants, and the ghosts of the 20th century had combined to produce a particularly toxic resurgence of nationalism. This year, we start to provide a framework to apply the same three-dimensional methodology to address the anti-Semitism in the United States.

Attempting to use the index for American Jewry is challenging in two ways, one fundamental and the other technical.

  1. First and foremost, it is essential to point out that European anti-Semitism is of a different magnitude – both the threat and the discomfort it induces – than anti-Semitism in the United States. North American Jews, on the whole, are more “openly Jewish” within their professional and social circles than their European counterparts. In Europe, being Jewish is an often freighted biographical element that evinces a self-conscious discretion of disclosure.1 Some of what is regarded as anti-Semitism in America, such as jokes about Jews, goes unnoticed in Hungary or Poland (countries with high expectations of cultural conformity where many of those with Jewish roots are reluctant to divulge their ancestry). These differences complicate the compilation and comparison of statistics from the two different continents.
  2. While there is quantitative data regarding anti-Semitism as perceived by Jews in Europe, no such data exist for America. Therefore, our anti-Semitism index for the United States is based upon indirect indicators, such as anecdotal reports, survey questions relating to the comfort levels of Jews within their professional and social circles, and the number of references to anti-Semitism in both the general and Jewish press.