Bipartisan House members to urge Biden to take action on antisemitism

May 28, 2021
In The News

A bipartisan group of House members, led by Reps. Ted Deutch (D-FL), Grace Meng (D-NY), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) and Chris Smith (R-NJ), is expected to send a letter to President Joe Biden on Friday urging him to take swift action to combat rising antisemitism and antisemitic hate crimes, Jewish Insider has learned.

The letter, which had 55 signatories as of late Thursday evening, calls on Biden to rapidly implement provisions to improve hate crime education and reporting procedures for local law enforcement, which was signed into law last week as part of a hate crimes legislation package. It also urges the administration to develop a strategy to combat antisemitic hate crimes and encourages the president to nominate an ambassador to monitor and combat antisemitism.

“As we now face a dramatic spike in violent antisemitism across this country, we urge you to continue your record of responding decisively to hate-based violence using these new tools at your disposal and take action to also protect the American Jewish community,” the letter reads, referring to the hate crimes legislation..

“While these new tools are critical, we also know that they are merely a first step. Education and solidarity are necessary to eliminate the root causes of antisemitism and racial discrimination,” the letter continues.

Highlighting a recent surge in antisemitism, the lawmakers cite incidents of violence against Jews in Los Angeles and New York and “countless instances of inappropriate Holocaust invocations and deplorable comparisons of Nazi Germany to Jews and the State of Israel.” They also call out social media posts suggesting Jews return to Nazi gas chambers and tens of thousands of tweets supporting Hitler in early May.

The letter frames combating antisemitism as an area where members of both parties can and must come together, and argues the surge is a marker of broader issues of ethnic, racial and religious bigotry and discrimination.

“Regardless of what state or which side of the political spectrum antisemitism comes from, we must respond forcefully and immediately. We cannot wait for another attack to turn deadly before we respond,” the letter reads. “We find our nation in a tense moment. Just days after we appropriately responded to anti-Asian hate crimes and incidents, we come together to urge a strong response to the rising antisemitism spreading in our country.”

The letter will remain open for additional signatories until noon on Friday and will be sent to Biden later that day. 

A significant majority of signatories as of Thursday evening were Democrats, ranging from moderates like Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) and Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) to progressives like Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA).

Read the full letter:

Dear Mr. President,

Just days ago, you signed into law the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, which included the Jabara-Heyer NO HATE Act, to strengthen our national response to hate crimes after a frightening surge in violence against the Asian American and Pacific Islander community. We applaud your administration for its willingness to confront and condemn all forms of hate; as you said at the bill signing, “Hate can be given no safe harbor in America.” As we now face a dramatic spike in violent antisemitism across this country, we urge you to continue your record of responding decisively to hate-based violence using these new tools at your disposal and take action to also protect the American Jewish community.

Hatred and bigotry against one community is often only a symptom of a deeper problem affecting all ethnic, racial, and religious minorities. We therefore stand in lockstep with all communities who face discrimination as they address injustice, discrimination, and bigotry. Recently, Congress stood proudly and in a bipartisan manner in support of the Asian American and Pacific Islander community and against the rise in bigotry and violent attacks on individuals by passing the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act.

Jewish Americans are also deeply concerned by the rise in physical and violent antisemitic attacks taking place in communities across the country. In Los Angeles, patrons at a restaurant were identified as Jewish and violently attacked in an apparent attempt to hold them responsible for the conflict between Israel and Hamas. In New York, a protest devolved into individuals shooting fireworks into a crowd of Jews. There have been countless instances of inappropriate Holocaust invocations and deplorable comparisons of Nazi Germany to Jews and the State of Israel and horrific signs and social media posts suggesting Jews should return to the gas chambers where millions perished during the Holocaust. Between May 7 and May 14, more than 17,000 tweets used some variation of the phrase “Hitler was right.” In just the last few weeks, antisemitic incidents, both online and in-person, have increased by 75-80 percent in the United States.

We ask you to swiftly implement the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act to strengthen hate crimes education and reporting by local law enforcement, particularly to identify and help prosecute antisemitic hate crimes. We strongly encourage the administration to develop an inter-agency strategy to combat antisemitism and protect American Jews using existing tools, including the Nonprofit Security Grant Program. Because this trend of rising antisemitism is not limited to our borders, we also urge you to expeditiously nominate an Ambassador at Large to lead the Office of the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism at the State Department. While these new tools are critical, we also know that they are merely a first step. Education and solidarity are necessary to eliminate the root causes of antisemitism and racial discrimination.

The majority of all religious-based hate crimes in our country are against Jews, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Hate Crime Statistics Act report.[1] It was only a few years ago that the American Jewish community suffered its most deadly attack in our nation’s history at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. This was followed by deadly attacks in Poway, California; Monsey, New York; and Jersey City, New Jersey. Regardless of what state or which side of the political spectrum antisemitism comes from, we must respond forcefully and immediately. We cannot wait for another attack to turn deadly before we respond.

We find our nation in a tense moment. Just days after we appropriately responded to anti-Asian hate crimes and incidents, we come together to urge a strong response to the rising antisemitism spreading in our country. We stand ready to work with your administration to unequivocally condemn and confront antisemitism across America and around the globe.

Sincerely,

Reps. Ted Deutch, Grace Meng, Brian Fitzpatrick, Chris Smith, Ted Lieu, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Josh Gottheimer, Elaine Luria, Brad Schneider, Juan Vargas, Brenda Lawrence, Jerry Nadler, Kathy Manning, Tom Suozzi, Jake Auchincloss, Carolyn Maloney, Brian Higgins, Lizzie Fletcher, Stephanie Murphy, Lisa Blunt Rochester, Ami Bera, Don Beyer, Scott Peters, Bonnie Watson Coleman, Hakeem Jeffries, Steve Cohen, Marilyn Strickland, Lois Frankel, Elissa Slotkin, Chris Pappas, Susan Wild, David Cicilline, Bill Pascrell, Jr., Madeleine Dean, Dina Titus, Greg Stanton, Mikie Sherrill, Andrew Garbarino, James Langevin, Adriano Espaillat, Donald Payne, Jr., Darren Soto, Mike Doyle, Dwight Evans, Kathleen Rice, Joe Neguse, Haley Stevens, Joyce Beatty, Pramila Jayapal, Suzanne Bonamici, Frank Mrvan, Jan Schakowsky, Jamie Raskin, Suzan DelBene, Diana DeGette