Jewish Post

Biden Administration Releases First-Ever US National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism

On May 25, 2023, the Biden Administration released the first-ever US National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism. This strategy includes over 100 new actions the Administration will take to raise awareness of antisemitism and its threat to American democracy, protect Jewish communities, reverse the normalization of antisemitism, and build cross-community solidarity.

According to President Biden, he decided to run for President after what we all saw in Charlottesville in 2017, when Neo-Nazis marched from the shadows spewing the same antisemitic bile that was heard in Europe in the 1930s. That is why he has prioritized action to counter antisemitism and hate of all kinds.

The United States has recently experienced an alarming increase in antisemitic incidents, among other acts of hatred. American Jews account for 2.4% of the US population, but they are the victims of 63% of reported religiously motivated hate crimes, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

While antisemitic incidents most directly and intensely affect the Jewish community, antisemitism threatens all of us. Antisemitic conspiracy theories fuel other forms of hatred, discrimination, and bias - including discrimination against other religious minorities, racism, sexism, and anti-LGBTQI+ hate. Antisemitism seeks to divide Americans from one another, erodes trust in government and nongovernmental institutions, and undermines our democracy.

That is why, in December, President Biden established the Interagency Policy Committee on Antisemitism, Islamophobia, and Related Forms of Bias and Discrimination, led by the White House Domestic Policy Council and National Security Council. As its first order of business, President Biden tasked this group with producing the first-ever US national strategy to counter antisemitism in the United States.

This national strategy sets forth a whole-of-society plan that both meets this moment of escalating hatred and lays the foundation for reducing antisemitism over time. Informed by input from over 1,000 stakeholders from every sector of American society, it outlines over 100 new actions that Executive Branch agencies have committed to take in order to counter antisemitism - all of which will be completed within a year. The strategy also calls on Congress to enact legislation that would help counter antisemitism and urges every sector of society to mobilize against this age-old hatred, including state and local governments, civil society, schools and academic institutions, the tech sector, businesses, and diverse religious communities.

To support the whole-of-society call to action, the Biden Administration also announced commitments to counter antisemitism and build cross-community solidarity by organizations across the private sector, civil society, religious and multi-faith communities, and higher education. The announcement included commitments from the Anti-Defamation League, American Jewish Committee, Asian American Foundation, Black Jewish Entertainment Alliance, College of William & Mary, Council on American-Islamic Relations, Foundation to Combat Antisemitism alongside six professional sports leagues, Interfaith Alliance, Jewish Council for Public Affairs, National Action Network, National Basketball Players Association, National Urban League, Polarization & Extremism Research & Innovation Lab at American University, Recording Academy, Religious Freedom & Business Foundation, Sikh Coalition, Southern Poverty Law Center, and UnidosUS. The Administration called on additional organizations to join this existing group in establishing their own impactful initiatives to counter antisemitism.

The Biden Administration said it will ensure the strategy’s effective implementation and leverage it to advance our fight against other forms of hate. In addition, the strategy reaffirms the United States’ unshakable commitment to the State of Israel’s right to exist, its legitimacy, and its security—and makes clear that when Israel is singled out because of anti-Jewish hatred, that is antisemitism.

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Among other steps, the Biden Administration said it would institute the following:

Pillar 1: Increase awareness and understanding of antisemitism, including its threat to America, and broaden appreciation of Jewish American heritage

Far too many Americans do not recognize antisemitism and understand its threat to our society. The US government will harness our collective resources to increase education about antisemitism and its threat to democracy, the Holocaust, and Jewish contributions to American society.

In 2024, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum will launch the first-ever US-based Holocaust education research center. Once the new center is fully operational, it will undertake systematic, rigorous, and actionable research into teaching and learning about the Holocaust and study the impact and effectiveness of Holocaust education in the US Agencies will also create new materials on contemporary antisemitism and Jewish American heritage and history. The U.S. government will also bolster research on antisemitism, its impact on American society, and its intersection with other forms of hate through funding opportunities, resources, and outreach from several agencies.

Furthermore, the US government will raise awareness on these topics both inside and outside of classroom environments, including in the workplace, in museums and libraries, and in the media. Federal agencies will incorporate information about antisemitic bias and discrimination and about workplace religious accommodations into their training programs. Additionally, the Office of Personnel Management, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), and Office of Management and Budget will conduct learning sessions for agency diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility officers on antisemitism and related forms of discrimination, as well as workplace religious accommodations.

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Pillar No. 2: Improve safety and security for Jewish communities

All Americans deserve to practice their faith freely and live their lives without the fear of attack or harassment. Many Jews in America do not have that peace of mind. Violent attacks against Jews are increasing. Verbal harassment, bomb threats, and vandalism against Jewish people, synagogues, and community institutions remain prevalent. A more holistic approach to improve safety and security for Jewish and other vulnerable communities will help prevent violence against Jewish communities in the near term and reduce the threat in the future.

America cannot effectively counter antisemitism if we lack robust data on the phenomenon, online and in our communities. The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, with the DPC and National Security Council (NSC), will launch an interagency effort to understand and eliminate the impediments to reporting of hate incidents.

The Administration pledged to continue to prioritize combating hate and discrimination in all its forms, including hate crimes, and to ensure robust engagement between law enforcement, government leaders, civil rights organizations, and the communities they serve. Among other actions, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will conduct a series of workshops on countering antisemitic and other forms of hate-motivated violence against communities impacted by targeted violence. Department of Justice (DOJ) offices across the country will undertake targeted engagement with community-based groups including youth, faith leaders, cultural leaders, and civil rights organizers from Jewish communities and other communities victimized by hate crimes.

It said it would join Americans in expanding community-based prevention efforts to reach and guide individuals off the pathway to antisemitic violence. NSC will amplify financial, technical, and training assistance offered to state and local partners establishing and expanding these community-based prevention efforts.

To improve threat information sharing between law enforcement and online platforms, the FBI and National Counterterrorism Center will conduct an annual threat assessment on antisemitic drivers of transnational violent extremism that can be shared with technology companies and other nongovernmental partners. And to address foreign support for antisemitism in the US, the NSC will review the authorities and capabilities of federal agencies to target transnational networks seeking to foster antisemitism in the US and elsewhere.

Also DHS and DOJ published a resource guide titled “Protecting Places of Worship: Six Steps to Enhance Security Against Targeted Violence,” outlining actions Jewish and other faith-based organizations and houses of worship can take to increase security through easily implementable steps that sustain an open and welcoming environment. And the Administration calls on Congress to fully fund its FY24 budget request of $360 million for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NSGP) - $55 million above the FY23 enacted amount.

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Pillar 3: Reverse the normalization of antisemitism and counter antisemitic discrimination

One of the most alarming aspects of the current wave of antisemitism is the extent to which it has become “normalized.” Antisemitic conspiracy theories and content are rampant online and in public spaces. High-profile politicians, athletes, celebrities, and others have used their influential platforms to spread conspiracy theories and Holocaust denialism.

The Biden-Harris Administration will, first and foremost, continue speaking out clearly and forcefully against antisemitism and those who peddle it, and urge all sectors of society to do the same. In addition, the U.S. Government will take steps wherever it can to tackle the rise of antisemitism online. We also call on Congress to hold social media platforms accountable for spreading hate-fueled violence, including antisemitism; impose much stronger transparency requirements on online platforms; and pass legislation requiring platforms to enable timely and robust public interest research, including on the spread of antisemitism and other forms of hate.

The Biden Administration also encouraged all online platforms to independently commit to taking several actions that will counter antisemitism, including: ensuring terms of service and community standards explicitly cover antisemitism; adopting zero-tolerance for hate speech terms of service and community standards and permanently banning repeat offenders of these policies; investing in the human and technical resources necessary to enable vigorous and timely enforcement of their terms of service and community standards; improving their capabilities to stop recommending and de-rank antisemitic and other hateful content; increasing the transparency of their algorithmic recommendation systems and data; treating antisemitism as a distinct category in transparency reports; and more.

The government also said it would counter antisemitism in K-12 schools and on college campuses. The Department of Education (ED) will launch an Antisemitism Awareness Campaign in 2023. ED is issuing a Dear Colleague Letter to schools, reminding them of their legal obligation under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to address complaints of discrimination, including harassment, based on race, color, or national origin, including shared ancestry, such as Jewish ancestry, and ethnic characteristics. Senior ED officials, along with other federal partners and influencers, will visit schools and institutions of higher education (IHEs) that are effectively addressing antisemitism to amplify their efforts, as well as schools and IHEs that need help responding to an uptick in antisemitic activity.

Federal agencies also commit to using and raising awareness about federal laws prohibiting antisemitic discrimination to ensure that stakeholders understand these legal obligations and that affected individuals know how to file complaints. For example, the Department of Housing and Urban Development issued a letter to the over 200 federally-funded Fair Housing Initiatives Programs and Fair Housing Assistance Programs on how to identify and counter antisemitism, Islamophobia, and related forms of bias and discrimination in housing. Eight agencies - the Departments of Agriculture, Labor, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Homeland Security, Interior, Transportation, and Treasury - will produce fact sheets explaining that Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination based on shared ancestry or ethnic characteristics, including certain antisemitic and related forms of discrimination and bias in federally funded programs and activities.

Agencies will promote religious communities’ equitable access to government programs. The Department of Agriculture will work to ensureequal access to all USDA feeding programs for USDA customers with religious dietary needs, including kosher and halal dietary needs. The Biden Administration will ensure that appropriate accommodations are made for religious practices, including Jewish observance. To this end, the EEOC will broadly disseminate its materials on nondiscrimination and religious accommodations in the workplace to employers and employees, including federal agencies, nongovernmental employers, and workplace Employee Resource Groups.

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Pillar 4: Build cross-community solidarity and collective action to counter hate

Any effort to counter antisemitism must be grounded in work that unites Americans from all backgrounds and beliefs to work in common purpose to stand united against hate. The Administration will identify and support the scaling of the most effective cross-community, solidarity-building efforts to counter hate, including antisemitism. The White House Office of Public Engagement will launch the Ally Challenge, inviting Americans to describe their acts of allyship with Jewish or other communities that are not their own.

To expand and mobilize multi-faith partnerships, the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, alongside federal agencies and diverse faith leaders, will produce a toolkit for faith communities on standing in solidarity with other religious communities to counter antisemitism and other forms of hate.

The strategy builds upon the Biden Administration’s strong record of support for Jewish Americans and action to counter antisemitism:

In 2021, President Biden signed Jabara-Heyer NO HATE Act and the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, which enhance state and local law enforcement agencies’ ability to respond to hate crimes.

In fiscal year 2022, President Biden secured a 40% increase in the NSGP, which supports the physical security of nonprofit organizations, including synagogues and other houses of worship.

In September 2022, President Biden hosted the United We Stand Summit to affirm our shared commitment across all American communities to fighting hate.

In June 2021, the Administration released the first-ever US National Strategy for Countering Domestic Terrorism.

President Biden nominated Ambassador Deborah Lipstadt to serve as the first Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism to have been appointed at the Ambassador level.

Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff, the first Jewish spouse of a President or Vice President of the United States, has focused crucial attention on the rise of antisemitism. He has met with interfaith leaders and special envoys from around the world to advance the Biden-Harris Administration’s efforts to combat antisemitism and support Holocaust remembrance.

The White House hosted the first High Holiday reception, established the first permanent White House menorah during Hanukkah, and hosted the first White House reception for Jewish American Heritage Month.

Agencies around the executive branch have honored Jewish Americans’ contributions throughout Jewish American Heritage Month (JAHM) in May. For example, the FBI held its first-ever JAHM celebration this year with US Attorney General Merrick Garland, Ambassador Lipstadt, and FBI Deputy Director Paul Abbate. USDA hosted a JAHM event focused on Jewish contributions to agriculture and the fight against hunger in America.

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Among the external commitments that stakeholders have committed to take:

The National Basketball Players Association will launch a Global Leadership Fellowship will bring together NBA players, civil rights leaders, and human rights organizations to examine issues of race, antisemitism, and the historical legacy of discrimination. Combining travel to places like Selma, Alabama, Auschwitz, the Japanese Internment Camps, and Yad Vashem in Israel with small group learning with clergy and civil rights leaders, participating players will examine and challenge preconceived notions, creating a new perception of their society and their role in it.

The National Action Network, National Urban League, the Asian American Foundation, UnidosUS, and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) will co-convene local dialogues with organizations that serve Jewish, Black, Asian American, Latino, and other vulnerable communities, including Jews of Color, with the goal of building mutual understanding, countering extremism, and addressing manifestations of bigotry within, across, and impacting ethnic, racial, and religious communities. Their national organizations and local affiliates will create inclusive spaces in multiple cities for open and honest discussions to continue to build relationships that will serve as a foundation for a united front against antisemitism, racism, and all forms of hate.

Professional sports leagues and teams will come together for a convening hosted by the Foundation to Combat Antisemitism to discuss strategies, tools and best practices to effectively combat antisemitism and all forms of hate. The conversation will include participants from the National Basketball Association, Women’s National Basketball Association, National Football League, National Hockey League, Major League Soccer, National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) and the Eradicate Hate Global Summit Sports Working Group.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations will launch a tour to educate religious communities about steps they can take to protect their houses of worship from hate incidents, such as instituting appropriate security measures, developing strong relationships with other faith communities, and maintaining open lines of communication with local law enforcement.

The ADL will partner with the Interparliamentary Task Force to Combat Online Antisemitism to convene a meeting in the fall to examine the impact of artificial intelligence and generative artificial intelligence on online antisemitism.

The American Jewish Committee (AJC) will expand its Call to Action Against Antisemitism in America to mobilize all sectors of American society to understand, respond to, and prevent antisemitism.

The College of William and Mary will sponsor its Dean of Students’ participation in a Fellowship and Summer Institute on Antisemitism and Jewish Inclusion in Educational Settings. They will also host a full-year “lunch and learn” program for faculty and staff designed to bridge differences and educate on topics such as “The Convergence of Abrahamic Major Religious Holidays: A Discussion of Interfaith and Religious Diversity.” William and Mary will also support a co-curricular series on faith in action for students, including field trips to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

The Interfaith Alliance will publish a new resource guide, “Mobilizing Against Antisemitism,” to educate its national network about antisemitism and engage diverse communities in building partnerships to fight hate. The resource guide illustrates how antisemitism appears in communities across the country today and offers guidance on how to best challenge antisemitism through education, building community partnerships, and supporting the work of Jewish organizations. Interfaith Alliance will share this guide and associated training with its over 60,000 individual supporters and activists around the country, many of whom are leaders in their own congregations, and 15 state affiliates with strong state and local faith networks.

The Recording Academy will host a listening session with Recording Academy Leadership in July 2023, specifically curated for creators in Jewish music. Their primary objective for this session is to establish a safe and inclusive environment where leaders in Jewish music can come together to ignite meaningful discussions and foster a strong sense of community. In addition, the Recording Academy will collaborate with the Black Jewish Entertainment Alliance to present a panel discussion commemorating the 50th anniversary of Hip Hop. The panel discussion aims to honor and celebrate Hip Hop while acknowledging the profound cultural collaboration between Black and Jewish leaders within the industry.

The Sikh Coalition will issue a guide for law enforcement to address hate crimes better. It also plans to publish guidance for federal policymakers to address hate in all forms against communities, including whole-of-society policy proposals.

The Southern Poverty Law Center and the Polarization & Extremism Research & Innovation Lab at American University will develop free resources against extremism and antisemitism. They are committed to providing these resources to the people building community resilience against extremism and working for a more just and inclusive society.

The Religious Freedom & Business Foundation, in collaboration with the ADL and AJC, will ensure that every faith-based Employee Resource Group of Fortune 500 companies receives ADL and AJC materials on countering antisemitism and related forms of discrimination and bias, workplace religious accommodations, and Jewish culture and contributions to American and world history.

The Jewish Council for Public Affairs will build coalitions that bring together Jewish organizations and individuals together with diverse racial, ethnic, faith, and civic leaders and groups to combat discrimination, bigotry, and exclusion and protect democracy. These coalitions will provide guidance, best practices, advocacy tools, model legislation, and other resources to enable the 125 local Jewish Community Relations Councils across the country to enlist and empower their communities in the fight against antisemitism, hate, and anti-democratic extremism.

The Southern Poverty Law Center and the Polarization & Extremism Research & Innovation Lab at American University will develop free resources against extremism and antisemitism. They are committed to providing these resources to the people building community resilience against extremism and working for a more just and inclusive society.

The Religious Freedom & Business Foundation, in collaboration with the ADL and AJC, will ensure that every faith-based Employee Resource Group of Fortune 500 companies receives ADL and AJC materials on countering antisemitism and related forms of discrimination and bias, workplace religious accommodations, and Jewish culture and contributions to American and world history.

The Jewish Council for Public Affairs will build coalitions that bring together Jewish organizations and individuals together with diverse racial, ethnic, faith, and civic leaders and groups to combat discrimination, bigotry, and exclusion and protect democracy. These coalitions will provide guidance, best practices, advocacy tools, model legislation, and other resources to enable the 125 local Jewish Community Relations Councils across the country to enlist and empower their communities in the fight against antisemitism, hate, and anti-democratic extremism.

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Reactions from Jewish groups and organizations are starting to be released including those shown below.

The Anti-Defamation League

ADL (the Anti-Defamation League) welcomed the release of the first-ever comprehensive US National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism and announced commitments to support the White House in its execution. ADL also welcomed the adoption of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism as part of the plan.

“As the US Jewish community is experiencing antisemitism at levels not seen in generations, we deeply appreciate that the White House has stepped up and delivered this significant, comprehensive strategy,” said Jonathan Greenblatt, ADL CEO. “It’s particularly notable that this approach recognizes that antisemitism is not about politics - it’s about principles. We are pleased that this strategy comprehensively addresses hate and antisemitism on campus, online, and from extremists on both the far-right and the far-left.”

World Jewish Congress

The president or the World Jewish Congress, Ronald S. Lauder, responded to President Joe Biden’s launch of the National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism:

“President Biden and his administration have developed the first comprehensive plan across US agencies to foster Jewish life and address rising antisemitism. The president’s leadership in directing the vast federal government to coordinate and act to protect Jewish Americans is unprecedented and essential in the fight against anti-Jewish hate. The World Jewish Congress is appreciative that the White House has incorporated specific points for which we advocated, and we commend the administration for elevating the voices of Jewish students, a WJC priority.

B’nai B’rith

President Seth J. Riklin and CEO Daniel S. Mariaschin have issued the following statement:

The new White House national strategy to combat anti-Semitism is a welcome and unprecedented effort by the US government to address the growing issue of anti-Jewish animus in the country. We commend the Biden administration for the magnitude of this effort, starting with its inter-agency task force, resulting in the US National Strategy to Counter Anti-Semitism.

We appreciate the affirmation in the national strategy on the IHRA (International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance) definition of anti-Semitism, which has been accepted by local and national governments, nongovernmental organizations, academic institutions, corporations and sports teams around the world. Fighting anti-Semitism involves defining it: the IHRA definition does that.

We applaud President Joe Biden’s introduction of the strategy, with the forceful words: “Silence is complicity.”

Republican Jewish Coalition

Republican Jewish Coalition CEO Matt Brooks expressed deep disappointment in the Biden administration for not exclusively using the International Holocaust Remembrance Association (IHRA) definition of antisemitism, the definition favored by mainstream Jewish organizations across the political spectrum, in his long-promised national strategy to counter antisemitism:

“Joe Biden had a chance to take a strong stand against antisemitism and he blew it.”

“The IHRA definition of antisemitism is the definition endorsed by every mainstream Jewish organization. Biden’s own Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism has urged other countries to “embrace” it as an “integral” tool against the rising tide of Jew-hatred. The IHRA definition is indispensable because it recognizes that criticism of Israel is antisemitic when it delegitimizes, demonizes, or applies double standards to Israel.”

“After initial reports that its new strategy would enshrine the IHRA definition, the Biden administration came under heavy pressure from the anti-Israel left, forcing a delay in the roll-out. Now, hours before a Jewish holiday and in the waning days of Jewish American Heritage Month, the White House is attempting a last-minute straddle - undermining the IHRA definition by promoting alongside it an alternative definition that says applying double standards and singling out the Jewish state for criticism is not antisemitic.”

“This decision seriously weakens the White House strategy. It is yet another instance of Biden caving to the anti-Israel radicals who constitute a growing Democratic constituency at both the elected and grassroots levels. It’s clear that only a Republican president will fully embrace the IHRA definition and put the full force of the federal government behind the fight against antisemitism in all its forms.”

Zionist Organization of America (ZOA)

National President Morton A. Klein released the following statement:

ZOA criticizes several alarming, harmful aspects of the Biden administration’s just-released “National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism”:

First, the Biden Strategy uses the soft phrase US “has embraced” [past tense] the positive consensus IHRA definition of antisemitism - while much more strongly states Biden “welcomes and appreciates” the dangerous “Nexus” definition of antisemitism. The Biden Strategy then also “notes” other definitions, which can mean even more harmful definitions such as the JDA definition.

In ZOA’s letter to President Biden urging him to solely adopt the helpful IHRA definition, ZOA explained that the NEXUS and JDA definitions shield and permit antisemitism that is masked as hatred for the Jewish state and Zionism. ZOA wrote that:

“The JDA and the Nexus Document are dangerous, wrongly shielding antisemites who try to mask their hatred of Jews by expressing it as hatred for the Jewish state. For example, the Nexus Document states that opposition to Zionism – i.e., the right of the Jewish people to self-determination and to live as a nation-state in their religious and ancestral homeland - is not necessarily antisemitic. The Nexus Document fails to appreciate that for many if not most Jews, their connection to their religious and ancestral homeland is an essential part of their Jewish identity

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