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Combating antisemitism

Jewish lawmakers press White House officials to move faster in tackling campus antisemitism

Administration officials highlighted the elevated threat level, while lawmakers pressed them to move faster to issue regulations regarding campus antisemitism

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Rep. Kathy Manning (D-NC) speaks during a press conference on new legislation to support Holocaust education nationwide at the U.S. Capitol Building on January 27, 2023 in Washington, D.C.

White House officials met with Jewish lawmakers on Wednesday on Capitol Hill to discuss efforts to combat antisemitism in the wake of Oct. 7 and implement the administration’s national strategy. 

At the meeting, administration officials highlighted the increase in antisemitic threats, while lawmakers pressed them to move more quickly on issuing regulations regarding antisemitism on college campuses, one lawmaker who attended told Jewish Insider.

From the White House, Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff, Homeland Security Advisor Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, Domestic Policy Council Director Neera Tanden and Justin Oswald, an official from the White House’s Office of Legislative Affairs, attended the meeting. 

They were joined by Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) and Reps. Kathy Manning (D-NC), Jerry Nadler (D-NY), Susan Wild (D-PA), Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), Greg Landsman (D-OH), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ), Elissa Slotkin (D-MI), Becca Balint (D-VT), Seth Magaziner (D-RI), Max Miller (R-OH), Kim Schrier (D-WA), Lois Frankel (D-FL) and Sara Jacobs (D-CA).

Manning said that lawmakers urged the administration to vastly accelerate its rulemaking process regarding campus antisemitism and provide better guidance to college leaders on best practices for combating antisemitism. The administration is expected to issue a regulation providing further guidance around a Trump-era executive order classifying antisemitism as a form of prohibited discrimination on campuses under the Civil Rights Act.

“We all expressed our concern that they’re just taking too long and the date that they predicted last year of December 2024 was totally inadequate, and they heard that loud and clear,” Manning said.

According to Manning, the lawmakers also pressed for the administration, particularly Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, to more publicly discuss the threats the Jewish community is facing, as well as their efforts to disrupt them.

Sherwood-Randall told lawmakers that the threat level to the Jewish community has “risen dramatically” since Oct. 7, and that they are “taking these threats very, very seriously,” according to Manning. Currently, the administration has not seen signs of coordinated terror attacks targeting the Jewish community, but is worried about lone actors.

The White House officials told the group that they are meeting all of the implementation deadlines for various executive agencies laid out in the antisemitism strategy, which was rolled out in May.

The White House officials said they are working with law enforcement to secure Jewish institutions and communities, monitoring online antisemitism issues and are in regular conversation with European allies, according to Manning. They also said they are concerned about the situation on college campuses, and are pursuing credible threats like those posted by a Cornell student.

They also asked why the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights has been slow in clearing cases on campus antisemitism, which have increased in number significantly since Oct. 7, Manning said. 

The administration officials said that the Office of Civil Rights needs additional funding from Congress so that it can hire more staff to handle the increased volume of complaints.

“Frankly, if my colleagues on the other side of the aisle are all of a sudden so concerned about antisemitism on college campuses, they shouldn’t be cutting funding for the OCR out of their budget,” Manning said. “It’s easy to pick on the three college presidents who performed so poorly in their hearings, it’s a lot tougher to say, ‘We’re going to increase funding to the Office of Civil Rights so that they can actually go after these investigations and go after the complaints with the urgency that they need.’”

Republicans have argued that the office has the resources it needs to tackle antisemitism cases.

Manning said the administration officials had also asked the lawmakers for additional funding for nonprofit security grants.

Manning said she had also pressed the administration officials on whether antisemitism education is being included in diversity, equity and inclusion programs for federal agency employees.

Landsman said in a statement to JI that the threat assessment provided by the administration “confirms this is a crisis. Fully addressing it will take incredible leadership, really hard work, and probably many, many years.”

Magaziner described the meeting as “productive” and said he was “grateful to the administration for taking this seriously.”

“With the events at home and abroad since Oct. 7, we all understand the importance of redoubling efforts to combat antisemitism, Islamophobia and all forms of hate,” he continued.

Frankel, noting that “antisemitism is spreading rapidly nationwide and around the world,” said in a statement that the meeting had “focused on the Biden administration’s most recent actions to prevent and combat this rising hate.”

Manning said lawmakers had requested this briefing shortly after Oct. 7 as antisemitic incidents in the U.S. skyrocketed.

“It took a while to get it all pulled together. But it was a very good, productive meeting,” Manning said. “And the top leaders that they had, there was an indication, to me, that they’re taking this issue very seriously and that they want to work with Congress on this issue.

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