The White House reacted this week to the epidemic of antisemitism sweeping American campuses, stating that “the actions on campuses turn the stomach and remind us of the saying ‘Never again.’ De-legitimizing the State of Israel while praising the Hamas murderers who burned innocent lives, or harming Jewish students, is antisemitism by definition.”
White House spokesperson Andrew Bates said in a statement that “amidst the rise in poisonous, antisemitic rhetoric and hate crimes that President [Joe] Biden has fought against for years, there is an extremely disturbing pattern of antisemitic messages being conveyed on college campuses.”
“Just over the past week, we’ve seen protests and statements on college campuses that call for the annihilation of the State of Israel, for genocide against the Jewish people,” Bates continued. “Jewish students have even had to barricade themselves inside buildings. These grotesque sentiments and actions shock the conscience and turn the stomach.”
Biden, he said, “is proud to have been an enemy of antisemitism and hate his entire life, and he always will be.”
“The Departments of Justice and Homeland Security have taken steps to ensure campus law enforcement is included in engagements with state and local law enforcement,” said the office of Douglas Emhoff, the Jewish husband of Vice President Kamala Harris.
Emhoff said he was scheduled to meet on Monday with Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona and with the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations “to talk about concrete actions we are taking to ensure all students feel safe on campus.”
The Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights “has expedited its update of the intake process for discrimination complaints under Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, to specifically state that certain forms of antisemitic and related forms of discrimination are prohibited by this law,” according to Emhoff’s office, adding that “the rise in antisemitic threats of violence against Jewish students in schools and on college campuses is unwarranted and unacceptable.”
Julie Rayman, managing director of policy and political affairs at the American Jewish Committee, told JNS that Cardona opened a meeting by centering “the fear and trauma being experienced by Jewish students and educators on campus and in K-12 schools.”
“He made clear his commitment that hate and antisemitism should have no place in education in America,” Rayman said. “He acknowledged that Jewish families are afraid to send their kids to schools right now, noting that ‘As a father, I’m committed to this’.”
Rayman said that she and colleagues asked the Education Department to take “additional steps to prepare universities to take prompt action against any and all acts of antisemitism and to send guidance to superintendents and others so they know what to do about walkouts and how to keep students safe in K-12 schools.”
“We have asked the department to urge universities to fully embrace the IHRA definition of antisemitism, making it clear that anti-Zionism in most of its forms is antisemitism,” she added.
“We were glad to hear from Secretary Cardona that he is tasking his team to create new guidance, noting that ‘If this is like nothing we’ve ever seen, then our actions must be like nothing we have ever done’,” she said. “I fully trust in his commitment to ensure that antisemitism will not and cannot be normalized.” The Department of Education made clear that it shares our sense of urgency and will stand up for students and families.”
Nathan Diament, executive director for public policy at the Orthodox Union, wrote that he appreciated “the serious and concrete discussion” with Cardona, Emhoff “and other leaders about the current wave of antisemitism at American schools and actions that must be taken to fight it.”
Deborah Lipstadt, US special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism, also attended, as did leaders of the Conservative, Orthodox and Reform movements, Conference of Presidents CEO William Daroff, Jewish Federations of North America CEO Eric Fingerhut, Anti-Defamation League CEO and National Director Jonathan Greenblatt, among others, per the release from Emhoff’s office.