Antisemitism in America Today

Lessons for the Post-Holocaust Era
  • Jerome A. Chanes


As we enter the new millennium, antisemitism continues to confound and puzzle Jews around the world — and many others, for that matter. There is a profound paradox — ‘the riddle of the defensive Jew,’ in the words of American Jewish communal leader Earl Raab — that plays itself out in Jewish communities when it comes to the question of antisemitism and the portrayal of the Holocaust. The reality is that the Holocaust does not come into play with respect to American antisemitism — except in terms of Jews’ perceptions of antisemitism, as explored later in this paper. Even the reactions of some in the African-American community that ‘too much attention is paid to the Holocaust’ is not, in my view, an expression of antisemitism, but of a somewhat more nuanced dynamic. This too will be explored.


Jewish Community Black Community General Social Survey Former Soviet Union America Today 
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  1. 2.
    Historian Robert Wistrich suggests a parallel development in Europe. It is of interest to compare the American with the European situation in terms of similarities and differences. See Robert S. Wistrich, Anti-Semitism in Europe Since the Holocaust (New York: American Jewish Committee, 1993), p.19.Google Scholar
  2. 7.
    For a survey of the data, and a useful bibliography, on attitudinal antisemitism through 1995, see Renae Cohen, ‘What We Know, What We Don’t Know, About Antisemitism: A Research Perspective,’ in Jerome A. Chanes, ed., Antisemitism in America Today: Exploding the Myths (New York: Carol Publishing/Birch Lane Press, 1995), pp.59–83.Google Scholar
  3. 8.
    ‘Patterns of American Prejudice’ was published as a seven-volume series based on the University of California (Berkeley) Five-Year Study of Anti-Semitism in the United States, designed by the Survey Research Center at Berkeley and carried out by the University of Chicago’s National Opinion Research Center under a grant from the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith. The 11-item antisemitism ‘scale’ developed by Gertrude Selznick and Stephen Steinberg for the Berkeley Studies was the model for subsequent surveys, including the 1981 Yankelovich, Skelly, and White poll commissioned by the American Jewish Committee and the 1992 Marttila and Kiley survey conducted for the Anti-Defamation League (see below). While there are numerous differences in the samples, study designs, and execution in the three surveys, the antisemitism scale used is substantially the same in all three. This has raised serious questions among researchers. See Tom W. Smith, ‘The Polls — a Review: Actual Trends or Measurement Artifacts? A Review of Three Studies of Anti-Semitism,’ Public Opinion Quarterly 57 (Fall 1993): 380–393, for an exploration of these questions. An earlier, landmark, study, The Authoritarian Personality, by T.W. Adorno, Else Frenkel-Brunswik, Daniel J. Levinson, and R. Nevitt Sanford (New York: Harper and Row, 1950), explored the personality of prejudice. In this American Jewish Committee study an earlier antisemitism scale was developed.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 12.
    Carolyn E. Setlow and Renae Cohen, 1992 New York City Intergroup Relations Survey (New York: American Jewish Committee, 1992).Google Scholar
  5. 27.
    For a valuable review of the data on black antisemitism, see Jennifer L. Golub, What Do We Know about Black Anti-Semitism? (New York: American Jewish Committee, 1990).Google Scholar
  6. 31.
    Steven M. Cohen and Charles S. Liebman and Steven M. Cohen, Two Worlds of Judaism: The Israeli and American Experiences (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1990).Google Scholar

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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 2001

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  • Jerome A. Chanes

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