ORLANDO, Fla. — Following the start of violence in the Mideast, anti-Semitic incidents more than doubled in May 2021 compared to a year ago, according to the Anti-Defamation League's Center on Extremism.

The violence impacts not only those who live in the Mideast, but also those here in Central Florida, according to local leaders.

What You Need To Know

  • Local Jewish leaders say anti-Semitism is resurgent

  • Violent incidents more than doubled in May, compared to May 2020

  • Violence increased in the Mideast during May, too

  • Jews can feel unsafe in U.S., too, due to hateful speech, actions, leaders say

“I know people when they go out won’t speak Hebrew in public because that might identify them as Jewish, or changing their clothing, or instead of wearing the Jewish star, they’ll tuck it in because they don’t want to be identified," said Aaron Weil, the now former CEO and executive director for Central Florida Hillel. "When you’re 18 years old and a college student, that’s rough.”

According to the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism, anti-Semitic incidents in the United States jumped more than 115% during the May military conflict between Israel and Hamas from May 2020.

“That is shocking and that should be a resounding wakeup call to our entire society,” Lonny Wilk of the Anti-Defamation League Florida said.

Those statistics only reveal part of the story because harassment online and on social media platforms have skyrocketed, Wilk said.

“Many people, when they experience something like that, may brush it off, may dismiss it, some people may report it to social media companies,” he added.

Weil was in Israel during the May conflict and remembers air-raid sirens going off.

“It’s terrifying knowing you have 90 seconds to seek shelter,” Weil said.

But he said while he and others were fearing for their lives, having a physical shelter made him feel safer than he sometimes feels in the United States.

“Where do you go to get away from anti-Semitism?" Weil said. "Where do you go to find — where I am going to be safe here? Anti-Semitism is all over the place.”

Current culture and social media platforms enable and encourage hate and harassment, as many individuals remain anonymous behind their keyboards, Weil and Wilk said. The platforms also reveal how emboldened people are in real life as well, they said.

For that reason, Weil and Wilk urge everyone to stand up to hatred and to anti-Semitism and to report these incidents. People also must stand together, they said.

“It should be our knee-jerk reaction when there is an incident to stand up as allies,” Wilk said.