Congressional Action Items

Recommendations for Congress, as part of AJC's Call to Action Against Antisemitism in America.

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As antisemitism threatens the well-being of the Jewish community with renewed vigor after the events of October 7, 2023, and as repercussions of the subsequent war between Hamas and Israel reverberate across the globe, elected officials are increasingly on the front line of countering antisemitism, protecting Jewish communities, and speaking out in support of American values. Congress can leverage resources to enhance Jewish security, establish structures to prevent and address hate, and confront the politicization of antisemitism. 

Please note that the suggestions offered below are not exhaustive. There is always more that can be done.

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Understanding Antisemitism

Increase awareness | Members of Congress, individually and in bipartisan groups, should speak out about countering antisemitism. Members of Congress are particularly well-positioned to share important resources to educate their constituents.

  • Host trainings to address antisemitism: Members of Congress should lead by example, starting with their own offices. American Jewish Committee (AJC) is partnering with congressional delegations around the country to hold bipartisan trainings to help Members and staff understand the roots of antisemitism, when anti-Israel actions become antisemitic, and how rhetoric can escalate to violence.
  • Coordinate town hall events for constituents: Members of Congress should consider town hall events as an opportunity not only to better understand antisemitism in their districts, but to also deepen relationships with local stakeholders and create a trusted space to discuss rising antisemitism and hate in our communities and online.
  • Share AJC’s Translate Hate glossary: This resource helps identify and expose antisemitic tropes, words, and symbols. Elected officials should use and share Translate Hate with educators and constituents.

Promote a standard definition | Congress has passed several bills promoting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) Working Definition of Antisemitism, including the Combating European Antisemitism Act, signed into law in 2019. While more than 40 countries, the European Union, the Organization of American States, and the U.S. Department of State and U.S. Department of Education have endorsed the IHRA Working Definition, Congress can continue to urge foreign nations, multilateral institutions, the U.S. government, states, and localities to use this proven tool. 

Ensure clarity around when anti-Israel actions become antisemitic | Political protests are an essential part of our democracy, and criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country is perfectly acceptable. But when Jews are targeted and attacked and Jewish institutions are vandalized because of Israeli policies and actions, it is unacceptable. It is antisemitism. According to AJC’s State of Antisemitism in America 2023 Report, 78% of American Jews feel less safe in the United States as a result of Hamas’ October 7th terrorist attacks in Israel. It is important for Members of Congress to be alert to antisemitic trends like holding Jews accountable for Israeli government actions, implying that Jews are more loyal to Israel than to America, and holding Israel to a different standard than that which would be expected of any other democratic country. AJC’s Recognizing when Anti-Israel Actions Become Antisemitic is designed to help elected officials navigate and address Israel-related antisemitism.

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Responding to Antisemitism

Issue unequivocal condemnations | When an incident occurs, elected officials should speak out loudly and clearly using their broad reach, raising awareness that antisemitism is not just a Jewish problem, but an assault on American values. Members of Congress must confront antisemitism head-on, especially when it emanates from colleagues, from those within their party, and/or their offices or staff. Strong statements of condemnation should come immediately and should:

  • Specifically name and condemn antisemitism when it occurs, even in the larger context of free speech. 
  • Offer pathways forward, including resources for victims, that can help the community heal while also proactively addressing antisemitism by generating an improved understanding of Jewish history, identity, and heritage. 
  • Define antisemitism. Dozens of cities and municipalities across the country—as well as corporations, sports leagues, and universities— have embraced the IHRA Working Definition, to help determine when incidents may be deemed antisemitism.

Depoliticize the fight against antisemitism | While bipartisanship has been critical to U.S. success in countering hatred of Jews in the U.S. and abroad, the fight against antisemitism is increasingly politicized. When considered only through a partisan lens, antisemitism is not being countered, but instrumentalized. Antisemitism must not be a partisan issue used as a wedge within the Jewish community. Especially in advance of elections, we encourage Members of Congress to be mindful of politicization and reach across party lines to address antisemitism.

Engage the community | When an antisemitic incident occurs, Members of Congress should check in with their local Jewish communities. While the Jewish community is diverse—politically, religiously, ethnically, and in every other way—there are sources that represent mainstream perspectives. The local AJC office, Jewish Federation, and leaders of large synagogues are good places to start. Members of Congress should consider designating a staffer as a central coordinator for Jewish and other faith communities, especially as security needs arise. Many Members of Congress already have Jewish advisory groups or interfaith/interethnic task forces that work with local Jewish communities. 

Improve hate crime reporting | Year after year, Jews are the largest target of all religiously motivated hate crimes, despite accounting for just 2% of the U.S. population according to the FBI’s 2022 Hate Crimes Statistics report. That report also highlights gross underreporting of hate crimes in cities across the U.S., including dozens of cities with 100,000 or more residents, significantly hindering our nation’s ability to effectively counter rising antisemitism and all forms of hate. In AJC’s recently published State of Antisemitism in America 2023 Report, over nine in 10 Americans, both Jewish and non-Jewish, say it is important that law enforcement be required to report hate crimes to a federal government database. Currently, reporting is voluntary. Making matters worse, many hate crimes go unreported to law enforcement by victims. 

  • Members of Congress should encourage law enforcement agencies in their district and state to submit hate crimes data to the FBI for its annual report. They should encourage law enforcement and faith-based institutions to apply for funding opportunities to secure vulnerable community-based institutions (such as FEMA’s nonprofit security grants) or to counter, prosecute, and report hate crimes (such as DOJ’s Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Program and the Jabara-Heyer NO HATE act grants).
  • Members of Congress should raise awareness within the Jewish community of the need to report antisemitic incidents to the FBI, Department of Education, social media companies, and local law enforcement. AJC’s State of Antisemitism in America 2023 Report revealed that one in four (25%) American Jews said they were the target of an antisemitic incident – a physical attack, a remark in person, or antisemitic vandalism or messaging –  in the past year. These statistics are inadequately reflected in official reporting mechanisms.  
  • The Jabara-Heyer NO HATE Act, signed into law in May 2021, seeks to address incomplete and inaccurate hate crime reporting. Congress should appropriate at least $15 million in funds to help improve reporting of and response to hate crimes, and to stand up hate crime prevention initiatives such as hate crime hotlines. 
  • Members of Congress should cosponsor the Improving Reporting to Prevent Hate Act, introduced in March 2024 by Representatives Don Beyer (D-VA) and Don Bacon (R-NE). This legislation effectively requires law enforcement agencies representing populations of 100,000 or more to report hate crimes or they will be subject to auditing and potentially ineligible for federal grant opportunities.

Guarantee enforcement when antisemitism occurs in schools | According to AJC’s State of Antisemitism in America 2023 Report, one in four current or recent Jewish college students have avoided wearing, carrying, or displaying things that would identify them as Jewish out of fear of antisemitism. One in five felt or were actively excluded from a group or event on campus because of antisemitism. (Last year, that number was 12%‍, showing a jump of eight percentage points in just one year). 

  • Congress should support Jewish students in K-12 schools and colleges by appropriating adequate funding for the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR). In September 2023, ED’s Office for Civil Rights, along with other federal agencies, specified that Title VI’s protection from discrimination based on race, color, or national origin extends to students who are or are perceived to be Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, or Sikh, or based on other shared ancestry or ethnic characteristics. They also released an updated complaint form to make filing a complaint even easier and publicized the full list of open Title VI shared ancestry investigations to increase transparency. OCR also pivoted their commitment to hold listening sessions in schools and on campus to have “interventions” with the most problematic educational spaces in America. Their work will yield invaluable long-term impact, especially needed following the surge in antisemitism after the Hamas terrorist attacks against Israel on October 7, 2023, and they must be funded appropriately.

Members of Congress should also cosponsor the Protecting Students on Campus Act of 2024, introduced by Senators Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and John Fetterman (D-PA) and Representatives Kathy Manning (D-NC) and Lori Chavez-DeRemer (R-OR). This legislation makes it easier for students to file a discrimination complaint with the Department of Education and holds colleges and the Department of Education accountable for addressing such complaints. As campuses across the United States have been rocked by antisemitic, pro-Hamas protests that not only target Jewish students but prevent an environment conducive to learning for all, passage of this bill is urgent.

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Preventing Antisemitism

Publicly share positions | Members of Congress should use their platforms as elected officials, including posting on their websites and social media, to share their commitment to countering antisemitism and specific actions they have taken or will take to understand and prevent this type of hate. 

Educate to prevent antisemitism | Members of Congress should ensure they are marking and hosting educational opportunities and events around key dates, including International Holocaust Remembrance Day designated by the United Nations to take place annually on January 27. Members of Congress should issue public statements, use the opportunity to encourage Holocaust education, and hold community events reaffirming the fundamental guiding lesson of the Holocaust: never again. Commemorating the Holocaust should also focus on contemporary forms of antisemitism, including Holocaust denial and distortion. 

Celebrate Jewish American heritage and diversity | Jewish American Heritage Month occurs each May. Celebrating Jewish heritage, Jewish life, and Jewish contribution to American society in May is vital to educate about who Jews are as a people and can also help mitigate antisemitism.1 AJC offers many resources specifically designed to help elected officials celebrate Jewish American Heritage Month, including talking points, customizable social media posts, and press release templates. May is also Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month, and Members of Congress may consider roundtable discussions about issues of common concern for Jewish and Asian constituents. AJC can also help plan community events in partnership with Members of Congress. Members of Congress should also encourage federal agencies that have online calendars recognizing heritage and history months to include Jewish American Heritage Month on their websites.

Protect Jewish institutions | Through funding and legislation, Congress plays a crucial role in safeguarding Jewish institutions. The 2018 Protecting Religiously Affiliated Institutions Act protects synagogues, community centers, and nonprofits against threats of force. The Nonprofit Security Grant Program provides funding for high-risk nonprofits to increase their preparedness and secure their properties. This essential program has been severely underfunded for years, only fulfilling 42% of requests in 2023, and applications are likely to increase significantly as antisemitic repercussions of the October 7th Hamas terrorist attacks against Israel continue to be felt throughout the country and the world. Congress should appropriate at least $385 million to meet the needs not only of the Jewish community, but all vulnerable minorities. 

Prevent online threats | Congress should pass fundamental reforms to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act and hold social media companies accountable for the spread of antisemitic and hate-fueled violence on their platforms. Both governments and the public must ensure company accountability. Legislation can ensure user safety and prevent digital harms, including ensuring citizens are protected from dangerous algorithms. Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle and some online platforms are calling to reform Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, including removing special immunity, in order to hold these companies liable for amplifying dangerous content.

  • Congress should ensure an online platform should lose its special immunity if it utilizes an algorithm to amplify or recommend content to a user that promotes violence or is directly relevant to a claim involving interference with civil rights or neglects to prevent interference with civil rights. Bills like the Protecting Americans from Dangerous Algorithms Act would hold social media companies accountable if their algorithmic amplification of content leads to offline violence. 
  • Congress should impose stronger transparency requirements on online platforms that prevent algorithmic bias, improve moderation systems, and enforce community standards. Bills, such as the Platform Accountability and Transparency Act, the Platform Accountability and Consumer Transparency Act, and the 2019 Filter Bubble Transparency Act address algorithms and the role of content moderators. Because broad prescriptions are not often scalable and “the back end is different” across platforms, Congress should better understand the workings of major social media to ensure the legislation is achievable. Bipartisan, common sense federal reforms like these should be fully examined. For clarity and consistency, we must ensure one solution, not 50 individual state solutions, sufficiently addresses the problem. 
  • Congress should pass legislation requiring social media companies to allow researchers access to the platform’s data, while maintaining users’ privacy. While open-source code is a gesture of goodwill from the companies, it must be maintained. Qualified, independent researchers can help Congress– and the social media companies themselves– better understand how the platform’s algorithms are spreading antisemitism. This is especially critical for generative Artificial Intelligence (GAI) which is not user generated. 

Encourage media literacy | A number of recent antisemitic attacks originated on social media, where posts and videos demonizing Israel were viewed and shared hundreds of thousands of times. Congress should allocate resources for media literacy programs educating about the urgent need to check sources and question bias, especially online and on social media. 

Strengthen education on Jews, antisemitism, and the Holocaust | A 2020 survey on Holocaust knowledge among American millennials and Gen Z conducted by the Claims Conference found that 63% of respondents did not know that six million Jews were murdered during the Holocaust, and 36% thought “two million or fewer Jews” were killed. According to AJC’s State of Antisemitism in America 2023 Report, 85% of Americans felt it was important that public schools invest more resources in teaching about the Holocaust. As only 39 states have taken some sort of action on Holocaust education, Congress should continue to fund and incentivize education on Jewish history, the Holocaust, and the contributions of Jews to America. 

  • Members of Congress should cosponsor the Holocaust Education and Antisemitism Lessons (HEAL) Act (S.1273 / H.R. 603), which requires the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum to conduct a study on Holocaust education and resources to improve the ways in which public schools teach about the Holocaust and antisemitism. 
  • Members of Congress should also cosponsor the Never Again Education Reauthorization Act of 2023 (S.3448 / H.R. 6516), which continues to support the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum as it provides teachers with training and resources to teach students about the Holocaust. 
  • Members of Congress and congressional staff can also help prevent antisemitism by educating themselves. AJC offers resources and trainings to help identify and respond to antisemitism, including Holocaust denial and distortion.

Fund federal agencies | In order for federal agencies to effectively counter antisemitism within their remit, as previously mentioned, they need adequate funding. Congress should provide appropriate funding levels for the Department of Homeland Security’s Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NSGP), the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and media literacy programs, and programs within the Department of Justice to promote hate crimes reporting and to reduce hate crimes in our communities. Jewish community protection, Jewish student well-being, and the protection of vulnerable communities across the country depends on it. 

Promote Cross-Community Partnership | Members of Congress should promote exemplary intergroup and interfaith partnerships to counter hate, discrimination, and bias in their states or districts and highlight best practices.

  • Host roundtable discussions: Members of Congress should convene ethnic and religious leaders to address community concerns over hate and hate crimes. Such discussions can also include U.S. Attorney Offices, FBI Field Offices, DOJ Community Relations Service, and groups representing communities victimized by hate crimes.
  • Participate in caucuses and coalitions: Members of Congress of different faith affiliations should come together across religions and political parties to speak out against hate, discrimination, and bias. Congressional caucuses model the power of coalitions to condemn hate, support vulnerable communities, and raise awareness. The Black-Jewish and Latino-Jewish caucuses bring together Members of Congress of or representing minority communities around shared concerns. With more than 150 Representatives, and more than half the Senate, the House and Senate Bipartisan Task Forces to Combat Antisemitism lead awareness-raising efforts on Capitol Hill and drive related legislative initiatives. 
  • Amplify community coalitions: Members of Congress should join in the efforts of and lift up exemplary cross-community partnerships like AJC’s Muslim-Jewish Advisory CouncilLatino Jewish Leadership Council, and other coalitions in solidarity and action against hate and antisemitism.

Pass legislation to ensure a comprehensive approach to counter antisemitism | Members of Congress should cosponsor the Countering Antisemitism Act, introduced in April 2024 by Senators Jacky Rosen (D-NV) and James Lankford (R-OK) and Representatives Kathy Manning (D-NC) and Chris Smith (R-NJ), co-chairs of the Senate and House Bipartisan Task Forces to Combat Antisemitism. This legislation is the most comprehensive legislation to date to counter domestic antisemitism and protect Jewish communities across the country. Many of the legislation’s provisions address topics covered within this Call to Action, such as supporting Holocaust education, the Department of Education’s ability to counter antisemitism in higher education, cracking down on the prevalence and spread of antisemitism online, and resources for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program. Among its many provisions, this legislation would also create within the Executive Branch a National Coordinator to Counter Antisemitism to serve as the president’s principal advisor on countering domestic antisemitism, and coordinate federal efforts to counter antisemitism, including reviewing agencies’ implementation of U.S. government strategies to counter antisemitism.

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