Jews in the Greater Rochester area think antisemitic discrimination has increased over the last few years.
In its “State of Hate in Greater Rochester” community survey, the Levine Center to End Hate at the Jewish Federation of Greater Rochester found that 63 percent of Jewish respondents—compared with 31 percent of all respondents—believe discrimination is on the rise.
“Rising discrimination has been clear to Jewish residents for some time, but it appears that this experience of bias is not as apparent to the community at large,” says Karen Elam, executive director of the Levine Center to End Hate. “It’s worth noting that we collected the data before recent displays of antisemitic rhetoric by prominent celebrities and politicians.”
Survey results show that 45 percent of Jewish respondents have felt personally discriminated against in the last two years. Fifty-seven percent have personally known a Jewish person who has experienced an act of discrimination while 58 percent have felt unsafe.
The Levine Center continues to analyze data—collected between September 2021 and March 2022—from its community survey developed by Causewave Community Partners and Crux Research. The center polled 1,090 community respondents from a nine-county Greater Rochester area.
Elam isn’t surprised that 83 percent of Jewish respondents have seen, heard, or read local media stories on a Jewish person experiencing an act of discrimination.
“Antisemitism is being mainstreamed in very dangerous ways. Our local Jewish community is not immune to the toxic environment that is being created around us,” she says. “And we know from centuries of experience that when antisemitism goes unchecked, it’s not only Jews that are threatened. Other minorities are also at risk.”
These results come at a time when antisemitism nationwide is on the rise. The Anti-Defamation League’s annual Audit of Antisemitic Incidents, released earlier this year, found that attacks against Jewish institutions, including Jewish community centers and synagogues, were up by 61 percent, while incidents at K-12 schools increased 106 percent and incidents on college campuses rose 21 percent.
Just this week, former President Donald Trump was criticized for entertaining celebrities with racist views, including against the Jews.
“I’m sorry to say this confirms a lot of what we discussed in our program ‘The Disturbing Resilience of Antisemitism’ at the end of 2021,” Elam notes of the Levine Center’s survey. “We are going to continue our work in 2023 educating people in our community on the threats Jewish residents face and how we can work together to stop anti-Jewish hatred.”
Elam is quick to add that the survey contains a spark of hope—65 percent of Jewish respondents believe that Rochester is a good place for Jews to live.
“I’m glad to see that, it makes me proud of our community, but we also know we have more work to do,” Elam says.
The center’s “State of Hate in Greater Rochester” survey helps establish a baseline of attitudes, perceptions, and experiences of discrimination and bias in the area. Rochesterians will be polled in the future to evaluate local efforts at addressing hate.