Last month, the American Jewish Committee released the largest survey ever of American Jews and the American general public on the issue of anti-Semitism in America. The results of this research were nothing short of alarming. The AJC found that 9 in 10 American Jews believe that anti-Semitism is spreading in the United States and that 8 in 10 believe that anti-Semitism has increased in the past five years. One in four American Jews (24%) has been a victim of anti-Semitism in the past year.
These results are not unique to AJJ research. A June survey by the Anti-Defamation League found that 60% of American Jews said they had witnessed behavior or comments that they personally considered anti-Semitic in the wake of the Israel-Hamas conflict this spring. Some 40% of the Jews polled indicated that they were “more concerned about their personal safety” and 77% indicated that they were at least somewhat concerned about anti-Semitism in America.
Of course, anti-Semitism is not a problem unique to 2021. In 2019, Jews experienced the highest level of anti-Semitic incidents since the Anti-Defamation League began tracking in 1979. That same year, the FBI hate crime statistics report found that although Jews comprise about 2.4% of the US population, Jews are victims of 60.2% of anti-religious hate crimes in the country.
In a growing sea of prejudice against Jews, there is a silver lining. The AJC found that members of the American general public who said they knew someone who was Jewish were consistently more aware of anti-Semitism, more familiar with its various forms, and more likely to view it as a problem that must be addressed. Put simply, exposure and education about Jews and Jewish culture can serve as an antidote to the scourge of hatred and bigotry.
With that in mind, Jewish organizations across the country have called on major cable and satellite TV providers to expand access to Jewish-themed English-language programs on their channel listings.
We were motivated by diversity and inclusion mission statements such as those from Comcast, which read: “We empower diverse content creators and have a long commitment to using our storytelling platforms to deliver representative programming. of the audiences we serve ”and Verizon Communications, which states,“ Diversity and inclusion are key to success. By celebrating diversity at all levels including, but not limited to, race, national origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, disability, social status, veteran / military and age we are a stronger company and culture.
In total, more than 50 major Jewish organizations, state lawmakers from 18 states and five members of the United States Congress have sent letters to the largest cable and satellite television operators, urging them to honor their commitments to serve their various public and add more Jews. thematic programming in English to their offers.
Unfortunately, the response from operators has been disappointing. Cable operators that broadcast Jewish-themed television networks often ghettoize these channels in the more expensive tiers or only offer these networks in cities that are perceived to have the largest Jewish population, which eliminates the possibility of millions of people discover Jewish-themed content on the cable dial. Many cable operators believe that the availability of Jewish content on the Internet is sufficient. Forcing viewers to search the internet for content does nothing to combat anti-Semitism.
Bundling Jewish programs into an affordable and widely accessible cable package allows this content to be discovered by both Jews and non-Jews, who in turn become more aware of Jewish life and the Jewish experience.
The pay-TV industry’s indifference to the Jewish community is disappointing, but it is not unexpected. In fact, the AJC found that 46% of Jews and 38% of the general public believe that anti-Semitism is taken less seriously than other forms of hatred and fanaticism.
It would be unacceptable for major video service providers to ignore a significant increase in racial or LGBTQ intolerance, but the same cannot be said for the well-documented increase in anti-Semitism. This tacit acceptance of anti-Semitism must change, and America’s biggest media companies can and must lead the way.
Sacha Roytman Dratwa is the executive director of the Anti-Semitism Movement. Russell F. Robinson is CEO of the Jewish National Fund-USA.