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NJ Jewish Leaders Welcome Biden’s New Antisemitism Strategy but Some Want More Action

The White House on Thursday unveiled the country’s first national strategy for combating antisemitism, including what the Biden administration said were more than 100 initiatives aimed at countering rising hate against the Jewish community.

The plan won praise from Jewish leaders in New Jersey, which has seen antisemitic incidents surge to record levels in recent months, including an attempted fire-bombing at a synagogue in Essex County and an online threat last fall that led to the shutdown of dozens of temples and community centers across the state.

Jason Shames, CEO of the Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey, applauded the plan. “The unprecedented spike in antisemitism has caused significant pain and alarm in our communities, and we look forward to working with our elected officials, and other faith and race-based groups to enhance security and fight back against all forms of hate and make our country a safer place,” he said.

“As Jewish American Heritage month comes to a close, the announcement of this important plan is an opportunity for us to reaffirm that no one should live in fear because of who they are.”

The strategy, which the White House said was informed by the input of over 1,000 stakeholders, calls for enhanced Holocaust education in schools through programs developed with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. It also calls on tech companies to establish a zero-tolerance policy for hate speech and asks Congress to increase funds for security at synagogues. The plan seeks to build allyship across communities to fight hate, the White House said.

“Silence is complicity,” President Joe Biden said in a video message at the event touting the plan. “I will not remain silent. You should not either.”

The strategy is built around four broad pillars, Biden said: increasing awareness and understanding of antisemitism, improving safety for Jewish communities, reversing the normalization of antisemitism and building solidarity among different religious groups.

It also affirms the U.S. “commitment to the State of Israel’s right to exist, its legitimacy and its security,” as well as the religious and cultural ties many American Jews have to Israel.

American Jews account for only 2.4% of the U.S. population, but they are the victims of 63% of religiously motivated hate crimes, according to FBI data included in Biden’s announcement.

Doug Emhoff, the husband of Vice President Kamala Harris and the first Jewish spouse of a vice president, said antisemitism was threatening democracy. “I know the fear, the pain, the anger that Jews are living with because of this epidemic of hate,” he said. “I will not stand idly by and allow antisemitism to poison our society.”

The plan drew widespread praise from the Jewish community, but the strategy also met criticism from those who felt the White House could do even more.

Liora Rez, executive director of StopAntisemitism, said the plan falls short. While it “acknowledges that Jews have been targeted because of their connection to Israel, it fails to name anti-Zionism as a primary form of antisemitism,” she said. In addition, the plan doesn’t allow antisemitism to stand alone, she said, repeatedly mentioning planned executive actions to fight “antisemitism, Islamophobia, and related forms of bias and discrimination.”

“Fighting Islamophobia and other bigotries is an excellent goal, but it does not belong in this particular antisemitism strategy,” Rez said.

Source:https://www.northjersey.com/story/news/new-jersey/2023/05/25