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International antisemitism envoys to brief White House

“The kinds of things that we were telling others to do, we need to look inside and do it ourselves,” AJC spokesman Kenneth Bandler told JNS.

The White House in Washington, D.C. Credit: LapaiIr Krapai/Shutterstock.
The White House in Washington, D.C. Credit: LapaiIr Krapai/Shutterstock.

As the Biden administration formulates its plan to combat antisemitism, several international antisemitism envoys will travel to the White House to discuss strategy with administration officials.

On Feb. 28, the American Jewish Committee (AJC) will bring antisemitism envoys from a number of European nations to Washington to aid in developing the administration’s whole-government approach to fighting Jew-hatred.

The gathering comes on the heels of a Dec. 7 White House roundtable on the topic, attended by U.S. Jewish leaders and hosted by Doug Emhoff, the Jewish husband of Vice President Kamala Harris.

“We’re looking to bring the expertise from Europe so that we can all learn, and the White House can learn about the value of having not just a plan but a dedicated person who is full-time, reporting to somebody higher up in the government on how to combat antisemitism comprehensively in the U.S.,” Kenneth Bandler, AJC director of media relations, told JNS.

Envoys slated to attend next week have official roles addressing antisemitism in the Organization of American States, Germany, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Norway.

The White House has yet to announce who will lead Tuesday’s meeting. Emhoff, who has assumed the mantle as the Biden administration’s point man on Jewish affairs, has been at the forefront of the Biden administration’s efforts to tackle antisemitism. The White House announced the creation of an Interagency Group to Counter Antisemitism, Islamophobia, and Related Forms of Discrimination and Bias on Dec. 12.

Though that’s a mouthful of a title, Bandler said Emhoff has made clear where he thinks the priority lies.

“The very first hate they’re going to tackle is antisemitism,” said Bandler. “He takes it personally.”

Jewish report feeling less safe in America

The interagency group held a principals meeting on Feb. 6, with representatives from more than 30 agencies and bodies.

The White House has given no indication of when to expect the plan’s completion. Bandler said the White House is in ongoing communication with the AJC and other Jewish organizations on the matter. Next week’s meeting is part of that process, he said, rather than an indication of any expected deliverables.

“We’re able to get this group of senior European officials in the door, and then the administration can listen to their wisdom and experience. Our situation in the U.S. is not identical to what happened in European countries, but given where we are and what’s been happening in recent years, there are some similarities we can learn from,” he said.

The AJC indicated that the envoys will head to Capitol Hill for meetings with Congress members, and some will travel to Miami and Los Angeles to meet with local officials and Jewish leaders.

Last week’s release of the AJC’s State of Antisemitism in America report cited troubling statistics. A quarter of young Jewish American adults say they have felt threatened by antisemitism they encountered online, and 85% have witnessed or been the target of antisemitism online at least once in the past year.

The survey results also indicated that Jews are feeling less safe in America.

“It’s ironic that the United States was advocating for quite some time to European governments to create these envoy positions, to take antisemitism in countries more seriously and to develop plans,” Bandler told JNS. “Now, the kinds of things that we were telling others to do, we need to look inside and do it ourselves.”

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