With the American Jewish community facing a 316% increase in antisemitism in the wake of the Oct. 7 massacre in Israel, U.S. political leaders have largely turned to mitigation measures, such as proposed increases in funding for FEMA’s Nonprofit Security Grant Program.
But unless U.S. political leaders start using more powerful tools to combat antisemitism, that response will be “woefully inadequate” and could undermine the fundamental character of the nation, Rabbi Moshe Hauer, executive vice president of the Orthodox Union, told JNS on Wednesday.
“We can’t have this country become a place of hatred and fear to the Jewish community,” Hauer said. “If it does, no amount of security grants are gonna do it.” And if the country becomes a place of Jew-hatred, “it ceases to be the United States of America,” he added.
Hauer, who testified before Congress on Tuesday ahead of the “March for Israel” rally, said that congressional leaders were unanimous about tackling antisemitism.
“They wanted to discover ways to address it,” he said. “They realize that it’s really a pivotal moment for American leadership to make sure that the United States doesn’t become one of those countries that becomes inhospitable for the Jewish people.”
U.S. President Joe Biden and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) have together proposed $1.2 billion in additional, one-time funding for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program on top of its annual $305 million budget.
Hauer said that even within the narrow lens of mitigating threats to vulnerable Jewish institutions, it’s not clear that those proposals will cover the demand.
“There’s no figure that accounts for the threat that’s being faced,” he said. “I don’t mean to be dramatic.”
Hauer noted that applications for funding each year far exceed available funding.
“By and large, that money is only for hard costs, meaning for cameras, for bollards, for armored glass in a building. Today, virtually every Jewish institution is hiring security guards,” he said. “Those aren’t hard improvements. Those are ongoing personnel costs, which some have taken to call an ‘antisemitism tax,’ that the Jewish community is having to pay to live in security in the United States of America, in the land of freedom and of liberty.”
“Those costs are huge,” he said.
Beyond merely mitigating security threats, Hauer cited the explosion of antisemitism on college campuses and said that the government needs to start using tools like Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits federal funding for institutions that discriminate on the basis of race, color or national origin.
“It’s certainly the kind of speech which is making it impossible for people to be comfortable—for people who are Jewish, people who are Israeli, to feel safe in these environments,” he said. “You think that’s uncorrectable? I don’t think that that’s uncorrectable. I think with real will and with real tools it’s correctable.”
Change will only occur when antisemites and other bigots in the United States begin to experience some of the fear that they are instilling in others, according to Hauer.
“They have not yet experienced the consequences of their behavior,” he said. “That’s what has to shift. Those are the ones who should be fearful.”