Bipartisan group of lawmakers pushes for funding to implement antisemitism strategy

Lawmakers urge additional funding for the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights and nonprofit security grants, among other programs

U.S. House of Representatives

Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA)

Amid a domestic and global surge in antisemitism since the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel, a bipartisan group of 51 House members is urging the leaders of each chamber’s Appropriations Committees to provide funding to various programs aimed at combating antisemitism.

When Congress returns from the Thanksgiving holiday, much of its attention will be focused on finalizing funding bills for 2024, with funding deadlines approaching in January and February. A new letter sent Tuesday, led by Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), advocates for “robust” funding for various programs highlighted in the administration’s national strategy on antisemitism.

“We hope that the strong bipartisan and stakeholder support for the President’s plan to reverse the spread of hatred will be reflected in our nation’s budget,” the letter reads.

The letter specifically calls for funding in excess of the administration’s $360 million request for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program, which funds security improvements at religious institutions, and in excess of its $178 million request for the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights, which helps enforce protections for Jewish students on campus.

The lawmakers also offered support for funding for K-12 Holocaust and antisemitism education programs, Department of Justice hate crimes grants and the offices of the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism and the Special Envoy for Holocaust Issues at the Department of State.

The Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) “is on the front lines of the fight against antisemitism and plays a central role in enforcing Title VI protections for students and faculty,” the lawmakers wrote, adding, “education is a powerful tool for preventing hate from taking root, but these efforts cannot succeed in an environment where antisemitism is tolerated.”

Funding for OCR has been a frequent topic of conversation at several recent congressional hearings on campus antisemitism. Calls for additional funding had generally come from Democrats.

Kenneth Marcus, a former assistant secretary of education for civil rights in the Trump administration, who has testified at several of those hearings, has argued that funding levels for OCR have not historically impacted its ability to clear antisemitism cases — a small fraction of the total cases the office handles. He has argued that more attention should be paid to proactive steps the office can already take to address antisemitism.

Regarding the NSGP, the lawmakers highlighted in the letter that “synagogues and schools have been targeted with vandalism, destruction, and violent attacks by extremists who hold Jews collectively accountable for Israel’s actions, striking fear into congregations and civil society leaders.”

Outside of the 2024 budget, the administration has asked for an additional $200 million in emergency funding for the NSGP.

The lawmakers wrote that funding for grants relating to monitoring, preventing and prosecuting hate crimes can help give state and local law enforcement “the capacity to bring an end to surging hate crimes against Jews” and “protect our communities from being victimized by offenders who might otherwise avoid consequences.”

Wasserman Schultz said in a statement that the administration’s strategy “provides a roadmap for how government, interfaith leaders, and community members can respond to antisemitism flourishing in our schools, our streets, and our social media feeds.”

“If we fail to provide resources to these objectives, the result will be more pain and devastation for the Jewish community,” she continued.

Fitzpatrick said in a statement that “the rise of antisemitism on college campuses and in public spaces after Hamas’ brutal, unprovoked attack on Israel is disturbing.”

“Congress must stand with the Jewish community in the face of the vile antisemitism that is plaguing our nation,” he continued.

The letter was supported by the Anti-Defamation League, American Jewish Committee, Jewish on Campus and Hadassah.

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