17 Jewish organizations push for passage of Antisemitism Awareness Act

by | Feb 29, 2024 | Other News

Jewish Federations of North America on Wednesday, Feb. 21, led 16 American Jewish organizations in a joint letter to members of the House of Representatives reaffirming their support for the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) Working Definition of Antisemitism, an accepted and widespread definition of antisemitism.

Clearly and accurately defining antisemitism is key to combating its manifestations wherever they may appear. The Antisemitism Awareness Act (H.R.6090) is a bipartisan piece of legislation that requires the Department of Education to consider the IHRA definition when conducting federal investigations involving colleges and universities.

“The IHRA definition provides a comprehensive and internationally recognized framework to delineate and address contemporary manifestations of antisemitism. It is also a consensus definition with bipartisan support, which is critical for effective policy implementation,” the letter reads.

Following Hamas’s October 7th massacre, incidents of discrimination, harassment, and violence directed against Jewish communities in the United States and around the world have dramatically increased. Over three quarters of American Jews feel less safe today since those attacks, and almost half have altered their behavior out of fear of antisemitism.

More than 1,200 entities around the world have adopted or endorsed the IHRA definition, which is the only definition that has been officially recognized internationally and adopted by mainstream Jewish organizations. It has also been formally adopted by 35 U.S. states (including Virginia), 91 U.S. cities and municipalities, the U.S. State Department, and President Biden’s National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism. It represents a significant milestone in the ongoing struggle against antisemitism.

The IHRA definition has been readily endorsed by more than 160 Jewish communities and organizations from over 65 countries who believe it best describes the various forms of antisemitism and Jew hatred that they confront. Additionally, hundreds of universities, business enterprises, sports associations, civil society organizations, and other institutions have adopted it.

The letter also stresses that the endorsement of an alternative definition “would undo years of international cooperation and progress in identifying and combating antisemitism and would only create confusion and unequal standards.”

While the IHRA definition has been adopted by the U.S. and dozens of U.S. allies, these alternatives have, for good reason, received no support. It is believed that the alternative definitions have not been adopted by any governmental entity anywhere in the world. For Members of Congress “to legitimize any of the alternate definitions would break international consensus and undermine anti-discrimination efforts domestically and abroad,” the letter reads.

Adoption of any alternate definition of antisemitism would undermine efforts to protect Jewish communities, the letter states. The IHRA definition’s clear and succinct examples include several relating to Israel, which have proven to be especially important in recent months.

Its purpose is to inform and not enforce, and it calls for “taking into account the overall context” of the situation. It does not punish speech, even antisemitic speech. Instead, it serves to help lawmakers and others determine when conduct is based on antisemitic bias.

Organizations joining JFNA include:

  • American Israel Public Affairs Committee
  • American Jewish Committee
  • American Zionist Movement
  • Anti-Defamation League
  • B’nai B’rith International
  • Combat Antisemitism Movement
  • Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations
  • Elie Wiesel Foundation
  • Hadassah, The Women’s Zionist Organization of America
  • Israeli American Council
  • Jewish Federations of North America
  • National Coalition Supporting Eurasian Jewry
  • Rabbinical Assembly
  • The Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law
  • Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America
  • Zioness