Shining a light on antisemitism, with the Anti-Defamation League

To learn more about the Shine A Light campaign, YouTube’s Global Head of Human Rights Partnerships, Malika Saada Saar, spoke to Jonathan A. Greenblatt, the CEO and National Director of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).

Can you share with us what the ADL does and how it is part of a larger network of organizations addressing hate?

For more than a century, ADL has worked to stop the defamation of the Jewish people and to secure justice and fair treatment to all. As part of that, we’ve built a world-class team investigating extremist threats, an evil that has intensified and expanded in recent years with devastating consequences. We work closely with a number of civil and human rights organizations representing marginalized communities, among them NAACP, LULAC, the Committee of 100, GLAAD, The Asian American Foundation, the National Urban League, and many others, to coordinate our efforts to fight antisemitism, racism, xenophobia, Islamophobia, anti-LGBTQ bias, hate crimes, bigotry, and discrimination. We also work in close coordination with many Jewish organizations to ensure that we are securing the safety and well-being of all Jewish people in communities across the U.S.

Over the past year we have seen a rise in antisemitism and antisemitic violence in the U.S. and around the world. What has the ADL been tracking, and can you give us a sense of the scope of this current challenge?

Antisemitism is one of the oldest and most persistent forms of hatred. It is the proverbial canary in the coal mine, serving as a warning that other prejudices in society inevitably are not far behind when antisemitism is present. And hate is not unique to the Jewish people. As the attacks in Christchurch and Halle have demonstrated, white supremacy is a global terror threat that can explode into violence against Jews and other marginalized groups.

ADL focuses most of its attention on the U.S. and the trends here are worrisome. Indeed, the number of antisemitic incidents in America has surged in recent years.

According to ADL’s Audit of Antisemitic Incidents, 2019 was the worst year on record for attacks on Jews in America. We tabulated 2,107 antisemitic incidents throughout the U.S., a 12 percent increase from the 1,879 incidents recorded in 2018.

Our researchers found that an additional 2,024 antisemitic incidents occurred throughout the U.S. in 2020. While this was a four percent decrease from 2019, it also was the third-highest year on record since ADL began tracking antisemitic incidents in 1979.

In the face of unprecedented attacks on the Jewish community, last year ADL conducted a survey of Jewish Americans to explore their experiences with antisemitism. It found that more than half (54 percent) of Jews in America have either experienced or witnessed some form of incident that they believed was motivated by antisemitism over the past five years.

Jews also commonly encounter antisemitism online. One in seven experienced some form of harassment, and more than one in 10 have experienced a severe form of harassment such as being physically threatened as a result of their religion.

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