Sharp rise in antisemitism in Maryland, Virginia and D.C., ADL reports

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ADL chart
ADL chart

2020 was the highest year on record for antisemitic incidents in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Colombia, according to ADL’s 2020 Audit of Antisemitic Incidents released on April 27.

The national report documents antisemitic assaults, harassment and vandalism the ADL compiled from civilian and law enforcement reports.


Although the ADL found a 4% decline nationally between 2019 and 2020, the numbers rose sharply in Maryland, Virginia and Washington.

In 2020, the ADL recorded a 135% increase in Maryland, 75% increase in Virginia and 126% increase in Washington in incidents from 2019. This marked the highest number of incidents recorded by the ADL in those jurisdictions, ever.

Meredith R. Weisel, the senior associate regional director at the ADL’s Washington office, which covers the Baltimore area, called the numbers “concerning.” She said the ADL does not know what accounts for the sharp rise, while numbers nationally remained steady.

“As the country shifted to operating in a virtual world, we saw troubling increases in online hate and harassment,” said Doron F. Ezickson, ADL vice president of the Mid-Atlantic/Midwest Division, in a press release. “Anti-Semitic incidents were also motivated by the spread of COVID-19, the 2020 presidential election, and white supremacist propaganda distribution efforts.”

Out of all 50 states and the District of Columbia, Maryland ranked 11th highest for antisemitic incidents reported in 2020. Virginia was the 10th highest and Washington, D.C., tied with Ohio for 13th highest.

In Maryland, there were 47 antisemitic incidents in 2020, including 11 acts of vandalism, one assault and 35 cases of harassment.

In July 2020, a man harassed four Jewish teenagers outside Towson Town Center, grabbing one of the teens by his shirt and calling the group “dirty Jews.” The Maryland assault and vandalism numbers were on par with 2019, but harassment rose from eight to 35 incidents, an increase of 338%.

There were 49 antisemitic incidents documented in Virginia, including 16 acts of vandalism and 33 cases of harassment. There were no assaults. Vandalism rose by a third and harassment doubled.

Washington, D.C., had 43 antisemitic incidents in 2020, including 14 acts of vandalism and 27 cases of harassment. Vandalism rose by 133% and harassment by 108%. ADL recorded two assaults in Washington in 2020, compared to none the year before.

In December, a counter-protester at the Million MAGA March was physically assaulted and called a “f–king Jew.” The other assault happened in July. ADL listed that attack as “confidential.”

Nationally, schools, colleges and universities saw a drop in incidents in 2020. ADL recorded 161 incidents at non-Jewish elementary, middle and high schools, a decrease of 61% from the 411 incidents in 2019. There were 128 incidents recorded at colleges and universities, a decrease of 32% from 186 in 2019.

Weisel attributed the decrease to schools moving online. At the same time, virtual antisemitic incidents, like Zoombombing, rose.

In 2020, ADL recorded 196 incidents of antisemitic Zoombombs nationally, with 144 of those targeting Jewish institutions, including schools and synagogues. Eighteen of those Zoombombs occurred in Washington, Maryland or Virginia, with 12 targeting Jewish institutions.

In March, the ADL released a report that found white supremacist propaganda in the Washington area doubled in 2020. While some incidents overlap with the recent report, Weisel said the two differ in focus.

“That [report] was specifically on white supremacist propaganda. This [report] is an audit of antisemitic incidents, which includes everything from vandalism, harassment and assault,” she said.

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