WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden on Thursday announced what he said is the most ambitious and comprehensive undertaking by the U.S. government to fight hate, bias and violence against Jews, outlining more than 100 steps the administration and its partners can take to combat an alarming rise in antisemitism.
Speaking during a videotaped address at the White House, Biden said the first U.S. National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism sends a “clear and forceful message” that “in America, evil will not win, hate will not prevail” and “the venom and violence of antisemitism will not be the story of our time.”
Months in the making, the strategy has four basic goals: increasing awareness and understanding of antisemitism, including its threat to America, and broadening appreciation of Jewish American heritage; improving safety and security for Jewish communities; reversing the normalization of antisemitism and countering antisemitic discrimination; and building “cross-community” solidarity and collective action to counter hate.
Jewish organizations largely applauded the administration's effort.
“Jewish safety is inextricably linked to the safety of other communities and the health and vibrancy of our multiracial democracy," said Amy Spitalnick, CEO of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs. “As we see antisemitism and extremism increasingly normalized in our politics and our society, the urgency of this framework is even more clear.”
The strategy also calls on Congress, state and local governments, tech companies and other private businesses, faith leaders and others to help combat bias and hate directed at Jews.
Tech companies are asked to establish “zero tolerance” policies against antisemitic content on their platforms. The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum has committed to launching an education research center. Professional sports leagues and clubs are asked to use their platforms and clout to raise awareness. The White House public engagement office will invite members of the public to describe how they have supported Jewish, Muslim or other communities that are different from their own.
Doug Emhoff, who is married to Vice President Kamala Harris, said at the White House that hate crimes against Jews accounted for 63%, or nearly two-thirds, of all religiously motivated hate crimes in the United States in 2022 although Jews make up just over 2% of the overall population.
“I know the fear. I know the pain. I know the anger that Jews are living with because of this epidemic of hate," said Emhoff, the first Jewish spouse of a U.S. president or vice president. He has become the administration's point-person on combating antisemitism.
Emhoff, formerly an entertainment lawyer in California, said he never envisioned that this issue would become “my cause” as second gentleman of the United States, “ but now, more than ever, we must all rise to the challenge and meet this moment.” He said the plan will save lives.
“We are committed to making sure that everyone can live openly, proudly and safely in their own communities,” Emhoff said. "It's on all of us to put an end to the visceral hate we are seeing across our nation. We cannot normalize this.”
In a sign of the administration's support for the strategy, Emhoff was flanked by White House domestic policy adviser Susan Rice; homeland security adviser Liz Sherwood-Randall; and Ambassador Deborah Lipstadt, the special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism.
Harris slipped into the auditorium for a few minutes to watch her husband from the back of the room and flashed him a thumbs-up before departing.
A survivor of the 2018 massacre at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, the deadliest antisemitic attack in U.S. history, welcomed the strategy.
"I am proud that our leaders understand the urgency and importance of countering antisemitism in a comprehensive way, but grieve the levels of antisemitism in the country that required the need for a plan in the first place,” said Rabbi Jeffrey Myers, who survived the attack that killed 11 worshippers.
Jury selection concluded Thursday in the trial of Robert Bowers, the man charged with those killings. Testimony is expected to begin Tuesday.
In his videotaped remarks, Biden said hate does not go away, that it only hides until given oxygen. He recalled the deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017, and noted that the antisemitic chants by participants led him to run for president in 2020.
“Silence is complicity,” the president said.
Last fall, Biden hosted a White House summit against hate-fueled violence. Emhoff led a White House discussion with Jewish community leaders last December to discuss the rise in antisemitism and how to counteract it. Days later, Biden created a government working group to develop the new strategy.
Lipstadt said the strategy's release is a “historic moment in the modern fight against what’s known as the world’s oldest hatred.”
"For the first time, the United States government is not only acknowledging that antisemitism is not only a serious problem in this country, but laying out a clear plan to counter it,” she said.
AP White House Correspondent Zeke Miller contributed to this report.