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Biden has been ‘doing a lot of work’ on antisemitism strategy behind the scenes, Emhoff tells Jewish Democrats

Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries said that ‘our pledge as House Democrats is to make sure that we stand up, speak up, show up until we crush antisemitism’

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President Joe Biden is introduced by second gentleman Doug Emhoff during a celebration marking Jewish American Heritage Month in the East Room of the White House on May 16, 2023, in Washington, D.C.

President Joe Biden has been engaged behind the scenes in crafting the White House’s national strategy on combating antisemitism, Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff, who has been one of the leading players in formulating the plan, said Tuesday evening.

“[Biden] has been doing a lot of work with us behind the scenes on the plan,” Emhoff said at a Jewish Democratic Council of America leadership gala in Washington, D.C. “And of course the vice president, she has been so powerful in continuing to push me on this journey of the fight against hate and antisemitism.” The strategy is expected to be released this week.

Emhoff also praised the work of the bipartisan congressional task forces combating antisemitism, which he noted “have been doing this long before we stood up the interagency group” in the executive branch and said he was “pleasantly surprised to learn” that many members of the congressional groups are not Jewish. He said he has been “talking all the time” with lawmakers about the strategy.

Emhoff was joined at the JDCA gala by House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY) and former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), who was presented with JDCA’s Defender of Democracy award.

“We… need to lean in because of the rise in antisemitism and hate crimes horrendously directed at the Jewish community,” Jeffries said. “Our pledge as House Democrats is to make sure that we stand up, speak up, show up until we crush antisemitism in the United States of America. That’s a value that we all should share.”

The House Democratic leader recently faced controversy over unearthed comments from his college years in which he defended his uncle, who had been accused of making antisemitic remarks. Jewish lawmakers and community members have largely brushed off the incident, defending Jeffries’ record as an opponent of antisemitism as a public figure. Jeffries has said he does not share his uncle’s views.

Jeffries also highlighted his support for a resolution honoring Jewish American Heritage month, which he said he was “proud” to co-sponsor.

“This country is a gorgeous mosaic of people from all across the world, different races and religions and ethnicities,” Jeffries said. “And as part of that journey, the Jewish American community has been so meaningful, so significant in every single field of human endeavor.”

Pelosi, who spoke extemporaneously for part of her remarks, described Israel’s founding as “the greatest political feat of the 20th century.”

She later quipped that, “Hakeem Jeffries is going to do such a magnificent job — he might even be speaker in this term. You never know.”

Pelosi also stood up later in the event to offer praise for Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) for helping to drive the establishment of Jewish American Heritage Month early in her time in the House. In addition to Wasserman Schultz, Reps. Kathy Manning (D-NC), Haley Stevens (D-MI) and Hillary Scholten (D-MI) attended the event, as did congressional candidates Adam Frisch and Joe Vogel.

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