On his first day in office, Saturday, January 15, Governor Glenn Youngkin issued an Executive Order establishing a commission to combat antisemitism in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
The order states:
“The Commonwealth of Virginia has been a pioneer for religious freedom since the earliest days of our nation. Tomorrow, January 16, 2022, will be the 236th anniversary of the Virginia General Assembly enacting the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom; promising that no man “shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief.” These words—as important today as when first written—remain enshrined in our Constitution and provide the basis of our enduring commitment to religious tolerance and equality.
“Our nation and our Commonwealth have seen an intolerable rise in antisemitism in recent years. Antisemitism, as defined by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, “is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.
“Sadly, in 2020, Virginians experienced a record number of antisemitic incidents. This disturbing trend has brought to the forefront the necessity of a targeted effort to combat the rising threat of antisemitism and ensure all Virginians are free to live their lives without the threat of harassment, violence, or discrimination. Every manifestation of antisemitism or Holocaust denial is an affront to our society and will not be accepted in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
“Virginia must once again lead the way in ensuring religious freedom and equality for all citizens. We must reaffirm our commitment to stand against hatred and intolerance, and develop an actionable plan to combat antisemitism in our Commonwealth. A commission will help us better understand the scourge of antisemitism and represents a meaningful first step towards ensuring a Commonwealth free from antisemitic harassment, violence, or discrimination in the lives of Jewish Virginians.”
The purpose of the Commission to Combat Antisemitism (Commission) is to “study antisemitism in the Comonwealth, propose actions to combat antisemitism and reduce the number of antisemitic incidents, as well as compile materials and provide assistance to Virginia’s public school system and state institutions of higher education in relation to antisemitism and its connection to the Holocaust.
“The Commission shall make recommendations to the Governor and General Assembly with the goal of identifying ways to reverse increasing antisemitic incidents in the Commonwealth.”