There is some concern among Pittsburgh’s Jewish community about local antisemitism. At the time of the survey, a wave of over 120 highly publicized bomb threats and a series of vandalism incidents targeted Jewish institutions throughout the United States. Although the threats were false and the responsible party was arrested more than a month before the survey launched, the incidents may have increased respondents’ sense of concern.
Although 14% of local Jews say they are not at all concerned about antisemitism in the Greater Pittsburgh area, more than two-thirds (70%) indicate they have some concern, and 16% note they are very much concerned. Members of the Connected, Involved, and Holiday groups express slightly higher levels of concern than members of the Immersed or Minimally Involved groups.
There is no significant difference in the level of concern across neighborhoods.
Concerned about antisemitism (% of Jewish adults)
|Not at all||A little/somewhat||Very much|
|Rest of Pittsburgh||16||67||16|
|Rest of region||9||54||37|
Older Jews are more concerned about antisemitism than younger Jews, with one-third (33%) of senior citizens and 10% of 18-to-34-year-olds being very much concerned. Similarly, those who have lived in the area for ten or more years express greater levels of concern than those who arrived more recently, though this difference is correlated with age.
Table 6.9b Concerned about antisemitism(% of Jewish adults)
|Not at all||A little/somewhat||Very much|
|Length of Residence|
|Household with child(ren)||13||65||13|
Sixteen percent of Pittsburgh Jews directly experienced antisemitism within the past year, and 213 respondents described the incidents in question. The most frequent experiences are listed in Table 6.10 along with the number of respondents who cited each experience.
Table 6.10 Types of antisemitic experiences
|Type of experience||Number of respondents|
|General comments - conversational or aggressive||80|
|Discrimination (e.g., jobs, lack of religious accommodation)||23|
|Vandalism or physical threat/attack||14|
|Politically motivated (right- or left-wing)||11|
Most respondents describe their incidents as very minor. As an example of the comments, one respondent wrote:
This is difficult because we live in a suburb where we are a minority. I would not call it antisemitism of the violent kind, but what one might call microaggressions—people saying nasty things about voting for liberal causes, presuming that we have certain practices because we are Jewish, and not accommodating our needs. (Last year the school scheduled a dance on Yom Kippur and we had to go and explain…They are better now, but really!)
Some of the incidents are menacing:
A person driving a car cut me off and proceeded to call me a ‘dumb Jew’ while I was walking across a street on my way to shul. The person then spit in my direction and told me to ‘go back to Squirrel Hill.’ (I live in [another neighborhood].)
Several respondents cite tension around politics:
During the last presidential election, a young, immature neighbor placed a Trump sign in our yard with a note on the back, something like ‘from your friendly neighborhood youth Hitler.’ I honestly don’t think they even knew we were Jewish but it hurt deeply.
Bernie Sanders was referred to as one of MY people.
A few cite incidents in the workplace:
I am a college professor…Antisemitism is considered politically correct by virtually all faculty in [respondent’s department].
A colleague told me that as a Jew, I should have to dissociate myself from Israeli military policies and ‘Jewish ethno-chauvinistic racism’ before I should be allowed in progressive spaces.
A coworker of mine said that a child we were working with looked ugly and Jewish. And then she said another child would have survived the Holocaust because she has blonde hair.
These incidents are disturbing, but it is important to emphasize that 84% of Jews in Greater Pittsburgh report that they did not directly experience any antisemitism in the past year, and most who did experienced relatively minor incidents. The perception of antisemitism in the community may be worse than the reality. Nevertheless, the community must remain vigilant to ensure that all of its members feel safe and secure to enjoy a rich life in both the Jewish community and the wider community around them.