new role

Bipartisan bill would create dedicated White House antisemitism coordinator

'If this responsibility doesn’t fall on top-level people in the administration, then it’s easy for the problems to move to the bottom of somebody’s to-do list,’ Rep. Kathy Manning said

Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) listens during a hearing with the Senate Armed Services Committee at the Hart Senate Office Building on February 29, 2024 in Washington, DC.

In January 2021, the State Department’s special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism, tasked with tackling antisemitism abroad, was elevated to the rank of ambassador. A year ago, the Biden White House unveiled the country’s first-ever national strategy to combat antisemitism.

Now, with incidents of antisemitism running at historic levels in the wake of Hamas’ Oct. 7 attacks in Israel, a bipartisan bill introduced on Wednesday would, for the first time, create an official administration position dedicated specifically to combating antisemitism at home, as well as new structures and procedures at various federal agencies.

“We need, at the highest levels of our government, to have people who are dedicated to monitoring and combating antisemitism,” Rep. Kathy Manning (D-NC), one of the sponsors of the Combat Antisemitism Act (CAA), told Jewish Insider on Wednesday. “If this responsibility doesn’t fall on top-level people in the administration, then it’s easy for the problems to move to the bottom of somebody’s to-do list and we do not want that to happen.”

The CAA is a product of the Senate and House Bipartisan Task Forces for Combating Antisemitism, and aims to carry forward the work and mission of the administration’s antisemitism strategy released last year; the formal timeline for action items in that strategy ends this May. The legislation has been in discussion for months.

The bill is being sponsored by Sens. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) and James Lankford (R-OK) in the Senate, and Reps. Manning, Randy Weber (R-TX), Chris Smith (R-NJ), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Grace Meng (D-NY), Marc Veasey (D-TX) and Ted Lieu (D-CA) in the House. All of the bill’s original cosponsors are co-chairs of the task forces. The Anti-Defamation League, American Jewish Committee, Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and Jewish Federations of North America are supporting the bill.

It would establish, within the White House, a dedicated position for a national coordinator to counter antisemitism — who would not be permitted to hold other simultaneous responsibilities. 

The official would advise the president on combating antisemitism domestically; coordinate, oversee and evaluate federal efforts to combat antisemitism across the federal government; review the efforts and policies of more than two dozen federal agencies and departments in combating antisemitism; brief congressional leaders every six months; and submit an annual report and recommendations to Congress on online antisemitism.

The new coordinator would be the first official administration position dedicated specifically to combating antisemitism at home. The position, and the bill in general, aim to ensure that antisemitism remains a priority and a focus in this and future administrations, with many requirements extending out at least ten years after the bill’s passage.

The coordinator would chair an interagency task force established by the president, including representatives from across the federal government, which would coordinate and monitor progress in efforts to combat antisemitism; establish procedures for collecting and maintaining data on antisemitism; oversee the Nonprofit Security Grant Program, which funds religious institutions and nonprofits’ security improvements; and work with Congress and American Jewish groups.

The CAA would also require the secretary of education to appoint an official as a lead advisor on combating antisemitism on college and university campuses, who would be responsible for overseeing efforts to combat antisemitism, providing students with resources to report antisemitism and communicating with school administrations about their legal responsibilities to protect Jewish students.

The Department of Education would be required to report annually to Congress on every active complaint of national origin, shared ancestry or ethnic discrimination it receives under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, and the status of ongoing investigations.

The bill’s findings section notes that incidents of antisemitism have “increased dramatically in many educational settings,” and also remain underreported. It highlights that the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights has a backlog of civil rights investigations.

The legislation urges the Department of Education to “expeditiously” issue a formal rule on combating antisemitism in education, a process which has been long-delayed and is not expected to be complete until December.

Addressing K-12 schools, the legislation requires the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum to study the status of Holocaust education across the country, along the lines of other legislation, the HEAL Act, introduced earlier this year.

The CAA endorses and cites the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of antisemitism, describing it as a “valuable tool” that “should be utilized by Federal, State, and local agencies.”

It notes that antisemitism can include holding Jews responsible for the policies of the Israeli government. 

The bill would require various federal agencies to submit reports to Congress on their progress in implementing the administration’s strategy, and the intelligence community to conduct an annual threat assessment on antisemitic violent extremism, including both domestic and international threats. 

The CAA would also require the Federal Emergency Management Agency to publish annual data on NSGP application approval rates, as well as “ensure that the Federal Emergency Management Agency has sufficient personnel and resources” to implement the NSGP.

And it formally designates May as Jewish American Heritage Month, requesting the president and state leaders issue annual proclamations recognizing it as such.

“The Countering Antisemitism Act is crucial to ensuring the policies and infrastructure of the National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism will endure beyond the plan’s formal 12-month timeline,” Dan Granot, a director of government relations at the ADL, told JI. “If enacted, the Countering Antisemitism Act — the most comprehensive antisemitism initiative to be introduced in Congress — will transform how we fight antisemitism in this country, ensuring it remains a national priority moving forward.”

Although some in the Jewish community have raised questions recently about the administration’s current level of focus on antisemitism — the president hasn’t publicly addressed the topic since February, JI reported on Wednesday — Manning framed the bill as a complement to the administration’s strategy, which came about in part under pressure from the House and Senate task forces.

“The day I got that [strategy], I started going through it with a highlighter and pen to start creating the bill that we are introducing today,” Manning said. “We basically have taken what was in the [strategy] and addressed [it] to Congress, and put it into a bill that we hope we can get passed into law…. It really started with the report that was released under [President Joe Biden’s] administration.”

Manning said she “find[s] it hard to believe” that Biden “hasn’t spoken at all about antisemitism since February,” and again praised him and his administration for issuing the national strategy.

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