White House to host Jewish American Heritage Month reception amid antisemitism talks

The May 16 event comes as the Biden administration plans to release a national antisemitism strategy this month

The invitation to the May 16 reception to mark Jewish American Heritage Month.

As the Biden administration prepares to release its national strategy on antisemitism, the White House will host a reception to mark Jewish American Heritage Month on May 16, according to a copy of the invitation obtained by Jewish Insider

The afternoon reception will be hosted by President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden. The event is “not tied to the strategy release,” a White House official told JI on Tuesday.

White House domestic policy chief Susan Rice said in a Monday address to the Anti-Defamation League that the White House plans to release the strategy later this month. Rice, who leads the task force that is working on the strategy, is stepping down from her position at the end of May.

Jewish American Heritage Month has taken place each May since 2006, when the occasion was first marked by former President George W. Bush. Former President Barack Obama held the first White House reception for the occasion in 2010. This is the first time Biden will host an event for Jewish American Heritage Month.

In a presidential proclamation, Biden said he “celebrate[s] the enduring heritage of Jewish Americans, whose values, culture, and contributions have shaped our character as a Nation.”

He also outlined the objectives of the national antisemitism strategy, which he said is being developed “at my direction.”

The strategy “will help combat antisemitism online and offline, including in schools and on campuses; improve security to prevent antisemitic incidents and attacks; and build cross-community solidarity against antisemitism and other forms of hate,” said Biden. The Biden administration convened a working group that is focused on antisemitism, Islamophobia and other forms of hate in December. 

The White House, which has spoken to hundreds of people in listening sessions focused on antisemitism, has not shared any details about the policy recommendations the report will make. Jewish community leaders have told Jewish Insider that administration officials aren’t revealing any details about the specific plans.

Several Jewish communal leaders tell JI that one detail to track is whether the White House plan embraces the consensus International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism. Some groups have advocated against adopting the IHRA definition, which tags certain slurs against the Jewish state (such as applying double standards to Israel and comparing Israeli policy to that of the Nazis) as antisemitic.

Shortly after Biden was sworn into office in 2021, Secretary of State Tony Blinken, in a letter to the American Zionist Movement, said the administration “enthusiastically embraces” the IHRA definition, “including its examples.”

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