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Bipartisan group of lawmakers to introduce bill targeting antisemitism


WASHINGTON — A bipartisan group of lawmakers is looking to address concerns among American Jews that antisemitism is on the rise six months after Hamas’ deadly, surprise Oct. 7 attack on Israel and the subsequent Israeli invasion of Gaza.

Led by Sen. Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., the group introducing the Combating Antisemitism Act on Wednesday aims to tackle discrimination by creating a dedicated position within the White House to advise the president and implement its coordinated strategy to combat the rise of antisemitism, according to text of the legislation first shared with NBC News.

“Antisemitism has been dramatically rising in the United States in the last several years and skyrocketed in the months since the horrific October 7 terror attack on Israel,” Rosen, the third Jewish woman and first former synagogue president ever to serve in the U.S. Senate, said in a statement. “My bipartisan legislation would establish a National Coordinator to Counter Anti Semitism for the first time ever, and take other much-needed steps across the federal government to fight anti-Jewish hatred, bigotry, and violence in the United States.”

The legislation is also backed by Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., and Reps. Kathy Manning, D-N.C.; Chris Smith, R-N.J.; Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pa.; and Randy Weber, R-Texas; all co-chairs of the Task Force for Combating Antisemitism in their respective chambers.

Under the legislation, the national coordinator would help implement the landmark plan, which outlined over 100 steps that federal agencies have committed to taking since the strategy was released by the White House last May. The coordinator would serve as the president’s key adviser to counter domestic antisemitism and would chair a new task force to coordinate the implementation of the plan across agencies.

The legislation would also require federal agencies to submit a report to Congress detailing their implementation of the strategy, enabling oversight authorities to identify and recommend new, better ways to counter the spread of antisemitism — including online.

It would specifically direct the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and the National Counterterrorism Center to produce an annual threat assessment of violent extremism directed at Jews.

And it would demand that the Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator ensures the agency has sufficient resources and personnel needed to support places of worship, community centers and nonprofit organizations with physical security enhancements via the Nonprofit Security Grant Program.

The bill would also formally establish the month of May as “Jewish American Heritage Month” in federal law.

Former Florida Democratic Rep. Ted Deutch, now the CEO of the American Jewish Committee, told NBC News in an interview that the legislation “sends a really important message” that threats to the Jewish community “are not acceptable, not to members of Congress, not to the American people.”

“This is a moment of enormous challenge for the Jewish community, and there’s great fear in the Jewish community. And it’s no longer anecdotal,” Deutch said. “This used to be something that we talked about, we felt it, but the data now confirms what we all already know that what used to be a simmering flame has now become a five-alarm emergency. Antisemitism is at an all-time high. Jewish Americans are scared.”

Asked why the legislation should be targeted toward combating hatred against Jews rather than broadened to apply to other groups, such as Muslims — a community that has experienced a rise in Islamophobia since Oct. 7 — Deutch said it is because “this is a moment of dramatically increasing antisemitism.”

“Because we know that when we do this, when we focus on antisemitism, it’s it’s not just the Jews and the Jewish community who are ultimately going to be safer,” he added, pointing to examples of recent mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Buffalo, New York, where the shooters expressed antisemitic and extremist beliefs.

“If we’re going to be serious about countering antisemitism, we in turn are going to be taking action to keep the community overall safe,” Deutch said, noting that antisemitism is a centuries-old and “unique kind of hatred.”

Antisemitic incidents in the U.S. reached a record high last year before the Oct. 7 attack, according to an October 2023 annual report from the Anti-Defamation League, which expects to publish new data this month. The Jewish community in the U.S. is facing “historic levels” of antisemitism, the worst in a generation, the ADL said, citing its data.

The organization has backed the new legislation, and said in a statement that the “U.S. government must pursue policies and create the necessary infrastructure to fight antisemitism today and well into the future; these efforts must endure beyond any single Administration or 12-month timeline.”

The number of American adults who say there is “a lot” of discrimination against Jewish people in the U.S. has doubled from 20% to 40% in the last three years, according to a survey from Pew Research released last week. Nine in 10 Jewish Americans say they have felt an increase in discrimination, that same survey found.

The rise in antisemitic incidents, including nearly three-quarters of Jewish college students saying last fall they had experienced or seen antisemitism since start of school year as well as a spike in anti-Jewish conspiracy theories and tropes, prompted federal action shortly after the Oct. 7 attack. Last year, the White House unveiled a new strategy to combat antisemitism on campuses, and Biden administration officials invited top Jewish leaders to the White House in December to discuss the rise in antisemitism.


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