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Antisemitism in Focus at White House Roundtable

Written by on December 7, 2022

Second gentleman Doug Emhoff hosted Jewish leaders at the White House Wednesday addressing efforts to combat hate crimes following a series of antisemitic tropes by American public figures.

Emhoff, the spouse of Vice President Kamala Harris, is the first Jewish person to be married to the number two official in the executive branch and has been outspoken about attacks on people of the Jewish faith.

“I’m proud to live openly as a Jew and I’m not afraid,” he said in remarks during the event. “And as long as I have this microphone, I am going to speak out against hate, bigotry, and lies,” he said, describing it as an “epidemic of hate.”

“We’re seeing a rapid rise in antisemitic rhetoric and acts,” he said. “Let me be clear: Words matter. People are no longer saying the quiet parts out loud. They are literally screaming them.”

The roundtable discussion led by Emhoff follows a surge of anti-Jewish sentiments, including from NBA star Kyrie Irving who posted a link to a film based on antisemitic disinformation on his social media, and American rapper Ye formerly known as Kanye West who in a recent interview praised Adolf Hitler and said he “loved Nazis.”

Ye recently attended a dinner hosted by Donald Trump at the former president’s home in Mar-a-Lago, Florida, that included Nick Fuentes, a Holocaust-denying white supremacist.

According to researchers from the Center for Countering Digital Hate, Anti-Defamation League and other groups, antisemitic and racist slurs have also skyrocketed on Twitter in the weeks since Elon Musk acquired the social media platform and granted “amnesty” to suspended accounts, including those that have been banned for spouting hate speech. And the ADL’s most recent audit said it’s seen a 40-year high in antisemitic acts such as assault, vandalism, and harassment in the past year.

Emhoff said there are “no two sides” to this issue and everyone must be against it.

“We cannot normalize this. We all have an obligation to condemn these vile acts,” Emhoff said. “We must all, all of us, not stay silent.”

The meeting included participants from Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox Jewish organizations and was attended by Ambassador Susan Rice, White House domestic policy adviser; Ambassador Deborah Lipstadt, special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism; and Keisha Lance Bottoms, senior adviser to the president for public engagement.

The ADL commended the attention, and urged the White House to implement their six-point plan to combat antisemitism. Their proposed plan goes beyond condemning the growing movement and recommends that policymakers take acts to block antisemitism online, and act against global trends in that space.

“We appreciate the important steps the Biden Administration has taken to fight antisemitism, including President Biden’s recent statement that ‘silence is complicity’ and the decision to convene this much-needed roundtable,” said Dan Granot, ADL’s director of government relations. “Now is the time to send a key message to the world that the administration is dedicated to solving this issue by developing a unified national strategy to monitor and combat antisemitism.”

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre pointed to administration actions at a September summit dedicated to addressing hatred and hate-fueled violence, and added that Biden established the first ambassador-level envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism.

She added that Emhoff felt it was important that he represent the administration in talking about this effort.

“There’s been many times at this podium, and many times this president himself has called out the bigotry, the antisemitism that we’ve been seeing, and he’ll continue to do that,” she said.

“I talked about this, how important it is for the second gentleman because of his historic role and how he belongs to the Jewish community and how important it was for him,” she said. “And again, he represents the administration, he is the second gentleman.”

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