NEW YORK — American Jews gathered Thursday to wrestle with how they should confront an election-year surge in anti-Semitism, a level of bias not seen in the U.S. for decades.

At a national meeting of the Anti-Defamation League, the Jewish civil rights group, about 1,000 people listened to talks voicing shock at the hatred expressed during the presidential campaign and questioned what they thought was a high level of acceptance by other Americans.

“I’m struggling right now in this American moment,” said Yehuda Kurtzer, president of the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America, an education and research organization, in his talk at the event. “I wonder whether I have been – and I think the answer is probably yes – a little bit naive.”

During this past year, anti-Semitic imagery proliferated on social media, Jewish journalists were targeted and longstanding anti-Jewish conspiracy theories got a fresh airing. Much of the bias originated with the alt-right, or alternative right, a loose group espousing a provocative and reactionary strain of conservatism. It’s often associated with far-right efforts to preserve “white identity,” oppose multiculturalism and defend “Western values.”

In addition to the online intimidation, reports of anti-Semitic vandalism and other attacks have risen. Last week, the day after the election, a Philadelphia storefront was sprayed with a swastika and the words “Sieg Heil 2106,” which means “Hail Victory,” a common Nazi chant, and the word “Trump,” with a swastika replacing the “T.”

These developments have stunned U.S. Jewish leaders, who recently had been more focused on anti-Semitism in Europe and on addressing complaints of anti-Jewish bias on college campuses amid the debate over the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israeli policies toward the Palestinians.

In a sign of the depth of American Jewish anxiety about anti-Semitism, ADL officials said donations to their organization increased 50-fold in the days immediately after the election and a large majority of the money came from first-time donors. Every one of their regional offices reported an uptick in calls from people wanting to donate or volunteer, the ADL said.

“We must not be silent, we must raise our voices, we must act, and to act we must understand what we are up against,” said Jonathan Greenblatt, chief executive officer of ADL.


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.