Biden Unveils Historic Package of Anti-hate Actions Amid Antisemitism Spike in the U.S.

White House also launching new initiative aimed at fostering dialogue

Ben Samuels
Ben Samuels
Washington, D.C.
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U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks at the United We Stand summit on countering hate-fueled violence, at the White House in Washington, U.S., September 15, 2022.
U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks at the United We Stand summit on countering hate-fueled violence, at the White House in Washington, U.S., September 15, 2022.Credit: KEVIN LAMARQUE/ REUTERS
Ben Samuels
Ben Samuels
Washington, D.C.

WASHINGTON - U.S. President Joe Biden on Thursday told the first-ever White House summit to combat hate-motivated violence that his administration is issuing a historic package of new actions to be taken by the federal government alongside civic, faith, philanthropic and business leaders.

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Biden's announcement comes amid a dramatic spike in nationwide antisemitism, with the Anti-Defamation League finding the highest number of incidents in the last year since it began tracking them in 1979.

"As the Jewish high holidays approach, families will gather for reflection under the shadow of the rise of antisemitism just four years after the attack on the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, the deadliest act of antisemitism in our nation's history," Biden lamented, saying such hate-fueled threats are not new to America and that there is a throughline of violence against religious and minority communities.

Beyond already signed legislation empowering local law enforcement to combat hate crimes and gun safety legislation, Biden called for a whole-of-government approach where the White House will use "every federal resource available" to counter violence.

The president further noted his budget increased funding to protect nonprofits and houses of worship from hate fueled violence and called for a new era of national service to foster stronger communities and bridge divides. He urged Congress to raise the living allowance for national service positions, and to rid social media companies of special immunity and impose stronger transparency requirements.

Billion-dollar bridge-building

Beyond these, bipartisan former White House officials are launching a new initiative aimed at fostering dialogue, and a cross-partisan group of philanthropic leaders are mobilizing $1 billion in investments aimed at building bridges. The White House further highlighted two rabbis, Rabbi David Saperstein and Rabbi Rachel Schmelkin, as "uniters" for their work in bringing communities together across identity lines.

Prior to Biden's remarks, Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker told the crowd how local multi-faith leaders helped his community during and after he was held hostage alongside several congregants at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas earlier this year.

Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker of Congregation Beth Israel addresses reporters during a news conference at Colleyville Center in Colleyville, Texas, in January.Credit: Elias Valverde II/The Dallas Morning News via AP

"During the ordeal, the Colleyville community came together — the Catholic Church that opened their doors to our families, our Muslim friends who brought them food and hugs. After we escaped, we were overwhelmed with love and support. We all need that love and support when tragedy strikes. And we need that love and support each and every one of us every day. We all need safety and acceptance. We all need compassion and kindness. We all need wholeness and peace," he said.

ADL President Jonathan Greenblatt said in pre-recorded remarks that he was "hopeful because I see people on the ground in their communities stepping up, taking this threat seriously and working together to strengthen those communities."

Joseph Borgen, who was the target of an antisemitic attack in the streets of New York amid the May 2021 Gaza war, said his attack motivated him to work with the Asian-American, Muslim and Christian communities.

"It really took my incident to see that the attack that I suffered is not exclusive to my community, but takes place across all facets of all minority groups. We truly need to use our voices and come together in our strength in numbers," he said. Borgen added that people need to be held accountable for hateful rhetoric, and that freedom of speech should not cover threatening individuals and infringing on their freedom.

Maggie Feinstein, director of the 10.27 Healing Project founded after the Tree of Life shooting, told the crowd that they aim to commemorate the victims in an authentically Jewish way while also acknowledging the multifaith support and partnerships that emerged in wake of the shooting. "We found that in the Jewish faith, we honor the memories of people through service, through learning and through saying their names and saying a prayer together," she said.

The summit further included a bipartisan group of federal, state, and local officials, civil rights groups, faith and community leaders, technology and business leaders, law enforcement officials, former members of violent hate groups who now work to prevent violence, gun violence prevention leaders, media representatives and cultural figures.

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