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Jews in America: By the numbers

Anti-Semitic incidents in the past week have made headlines and added to a growing trend in 2017. Eleven Jewish community centers were evacuated Monday after receiving bomb threats, and nearly 200 headstones in a Jewish cemetery in St. Louis were vandalized over the weekend.

President Trump called the recent incidents “horrible and painful” during a visit to the National Museum of African American History and Culture on Tuesday. “The anti-Semitic threats targeting our Jewish community and community centers are horrible and are painful, and a very sad reminder of the work that still must be done to root out hate and prejudice and evil,” he said. 

Trump’s comments came after two press conferences last week when he refused to condemn anti-Semitic incidents when asked by reporters. For some Democrats, the President’s comments are too little, too late. “President Trump’s statement is long overdue and doesn’t begin to scratch the surface of what needs to be done,” House Democratic Caucus Chairman Joe Crowley said.

One leader of a pro-Jewish advocacy organization called the president’s statement an “important first step.” “He needs to go from saying it’s an issue to taking steps to solve the problem,” Jonathan Greenblatt, the CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, said on MSNBC. Steven Goldstein, the director of the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect, called the president’s statement a “Band-Aid on the cancer of anti-Semitism that has infected his own administration.”

Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter and one of more than five million American Jews after converting nearly a decade ago, also spoke out on Twitter about the rise in violent anti-Semitic incidents. “America is a nation built on the principle of religious tolerance,” she wrote. “We must protect our houses of worship & religious centers.”

So what is the state of Judaism in America? Here’s a look at the numbers:

How many Jews live in the United States?
Pew Research Center estimates 5.3 million Jews live in the United States, accounting for approximately 2.2 percent of the U.S. adult population.

How many Jews serve in high-profile government jobs?
There are 30 Jews serving in the 115th Congress, down from 45 in 2009.  Jewish members make up 5.6 percent of the Congress that was sworn in in January.  There are nine Jewish senators – including Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York – and 21 Jewish representatives.  Just two are Republicans.
Jews are more overly represented on the Supreme Court.  Three of the current eight justices are Jewish – Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan.
In President Trump’s cabinet, two of the top 15 Cabinet-level agencies included in the line of succession are led by Jews. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin are both Jewish.

How many Jews serve in the military?
Less than one-third of one percent of the people serving in the U.S. Armed Forces are Jewish.

How many synagogues and Jewish community centers are there in the United States?
According to a 2002 report by the American Jewish Committee, there are 3,727 synagogues in the United States.  The JCC Association of North America says there are 350 Jewish community centers and camps in the United States and Canada.

What is the status of anti-Semitism in the United States?
The Anti-Defamation League says there were 941 anti-Semitic incidents in the United States in 2015.  That was up three percent over 2014 but down from the peak of 1,554 incidents in 2006.  The ADL classified 56 of the incidents as assaults, 377 as vandalism and 508 as harassment and threats.  One of the largest increases in incidents was on college campuses, where in 2015, there were 90 anti-Semtic incidents reported on 60 different campuses – a 92 percent increase over 2014.

The FBI also tracks hate crimes in the United States. Its 2015 report showed that Jews were the most frequent target of anti-religious hate crimes.  Of the 1,402 anti-religious hate crimes reported in 2015, over half (52.1 percent) were committed because of anti-Jewish bias.  That was more than twice the number of incidents committed against the second most-targeted religious group.  21.9 percent of anti-religious hate crimes were because of anti-Muslim bias.

The 11 reported bomb threats to Jewish community centers on Monday is part of an alarming trend in recent weeks.  So far in 2017, the JCC Association of North America says there have been 69 bomb threats against JCCs in 27 states. In 2016, there was only one similar bomb threat.

But the reports of actual threats or violence are relatively small compared to self-reported anti-Semitism.  A survey by the World Zionist Organization’s International Center for Countering Antisemitism found that 85 percent of Jews worldwide have seen or experienced anti-Semitism.  Half of Jews in Europe and North America reported they had seen or experienced anti-Semitism in the past year.

According to an internal poll conducted by the ADL last fall, 14 percent of Americans -- around 35 million people --- have anti-Semitic views. Another 68 percent said the 2016 presidential campaign "decreased tolerance and respect for people of all race and religion."

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Photo: flickr / Jens Schott Knudsen