U.S. Marks Fifth Anniversary Of The Poway Synagogue Shooting Amid Surge In Antisemitism

(New York, N.Y.) – On Saturday, amid surging antisemitism around the world, Americans will mark the fifth anniversary of the deadly shooting at the Chabad of Poway, California, which killed one and injured three. In the five years since that horrific attack, antisemitic incidents in the United States hit record highs and American Jews across the country have reported fearing for their safety on university campuses and other public spaces. 

Armed with a semiautomatic rifle, 19-year-old John Earnest broke into the Chabad synagogue on April 27, 2019, as congregants marked the Jewish Sabbath and the last day of Passover. He killed 60-year-old Lori Gilbert-Kaye and wounded Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, Almog Peretz, and Peretz’s 8-year-old niece, Noya Dahan. Hours before the shooting, Earnest had authored an antisemitic and racist open letter on the far-right message board 8chan, citing inspiration from Brenton Tarrant, the white supremacist who carried out a massacre at two New Zealand mosques a month earlier, and Robert Bowers, the white nationalist who killed 11 and wounded six others in the 2018 Tree of Life Synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh. Earnest lamented that “I can only kill so many Jews” and “I only wish I killed more.” In September 2021, Earnest pleaded guilty to 113 hate crime, civil rights, and firearms charges for Kaye’s murder, the attempted murder of 53 others at the Chabad of Poway, and the March 24, 2019, arson of the Dar-ul-Arqam Mosque in Escondido, California. He is currently serving a life sentence plus 30 years in federal prison. 

CEP Senior Director Dr. Hans-Jakob Schindler noted: “As we mark five years since this horrific attack on a Jewish house of worship, we are witnessing an unprecedented rise in antisemitic harassment, physical attacks, intimidation, and exclusion. We must work with our partners in law enforcement and across communities to draw attention to the threats to the safety and wellbeing of the Jewish community to ensure the safety and wellbeing of all Americans.” 

Unfortunately, in the years following Earnest’s attack, antisemitism has only continued to rise with thousands of cases reported since the start of the war of Hamas against Israel that began in October 2023. Contributing to this surge, anti-Israel protesters have taken over spaces across U.S. campuses, including at Columbia, Fashion Institute of Technology, NYU, Vanderbilt, and Yale, to demand that their universities cut research ties with Israeli institutions and divest from Israeli companies. Jewish students have reported harassment and physical intimidation, such as this past weekend when a Jewish student at Yale covering protests for the school newspaper reported that pro-Palestinian protesters taunted her and then jabbed her in the eye with a Palestinian flag. The White House condemned the growing antisemitic incidents on college campus in a statement prior to the start of the Passover holiday. 

While violent attacks like Earnest’s are easily recognizable as antisemitism, this hatred has taken many forms over the centuries. The Counter Extremism Project (CEP) resource Antisemitism Resurgent: Manifestations of Antisemitism In The 21st Century details how modern antisemites have repackaged historic tropes—including the blood libel and accusations of Jewish economic and political influence—to justify their hatred. CEP’s Antisemitism: A History resource examines the origins of many of these tropes and the development of the world’s oldest hatred.   

To read CEP’s resource Antisemitism Resurgent: Manifestations of Antisemitism in the 21st Century, please click here

To read CEP’s resource Antisemitism: A History, please click here

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On May 8, 2019, Taliban insurgents detonated an explosive-laden vehicle and then broke into American NGO Counterpart International’s offices in Kabul. At least seven people were killed and 24 were injured.

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