community call

Orthodox Jewish leaders talk antisemitism with White House officials

The meeting comes amid a rise in antisemitic hate crimes

Photo by KENA BETANCUR/AFP via Getty Images

Two police officers stand guard as the press gathers outside a rabbi's home where a machete attack that took place earlier during the Jewish festival of Hanukkah, in Monsey, New York, on December 29, 2019.

Amid a national rise in antisemitism, more than three dozen Orthodox Jewish leaders and community members shared their experiences with antisemitism in a virtual meeting with White House officials on Friday

Senior officials from the National Security Council and the Domestic Policy Council participated in the call, which was convened by Shelley Greenspan, the White House’s liaison to the Jewish community. Deputy Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism Aaron Keyak was also on the call. 

Orthodox Jews are “on the frontlines [of antisemitism] because they’re identifiable as Jews, so they feel it, in some ways, more than others,” said Ezra Friedlander, a public relations executive who is Hasidic and was at Friday’s meeting. “I’m grateful that the White House felt it was important to reach out specifically towards the Orthodox Jewish community to hear from them, because oftentimes, our perspectives are overlooked.” 

Recently released data from the FBI shows that hate crimes against Jews increased nearly 20% from 2020 to 2021. Orthodox Jews were the victims of many recent attacks, including two men who were shot as they left their synagogue in Los Angeles last month. 

In 2019, an intruder stabbed several people — killing one — at a Hanukkah party at a private home in Monsey, N.Y., a fast-growing and heavily Jewish hamlet north of New York City. Two weeks before, three people had been killed in a kosher grocery store in Jersey City, N.J. 

Participants on Friday’s call spoke about the distinct ways that antisemitism can affect the most strictly observant Jews and those who are the most visibly Jewish. For instance, in New Jersey, where a number of large Jewish communities have grown rapidly in towns near Lakewood, local legislators and activists planned to push forward zoning ordinances to discriminate against Jews and “go on social media to intimidate the growth of the community,” said Friedlander.

The meeting was one of several listening sessions that the White House has hosted as part of an effort to create a national policy to combat antisemitism. The policymaking effort is the first initiative of an interagency group tasked with combating antisemitism, Islamophobia and “related forms of bias and discrimination.” 

Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff and other senior White House officials hosted a roundtable with a wide swath of Jewish leaders in December. Last month, antisemitism envoys from Latin America and Europe visited the White House to share what they’ve learned from working to fight antisemitism. 

“I think that they really were doing a good job of trying to listen to our lived experience,” said Rabbi Yaakov Menken, managing director of the conservative Coalition for Jewish Values. 

The White House has not announced a timeline for the completion of the antisemitism policy. The task force was announced in December. 

Subscribe now to
the Daily Kickoff

The politics and business news you need to stay up to date, delivered each morning in a must-read newsletter.