Executive Branch Action Items

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

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The White House and Executive Branch agencies play an unparalleled role in promoting national cohesion around important issues and charting long-term, sustained engagement.

As antisemitism threatens the well-being of the Jewish community with renewed vigor after the horrific attacks on October 7, 2023 – and the subsequent war between Hamas and Israel – federal agencies bear the responsibility and the resources to better understand antisemitism, respond and raise awareness, and most importantly, prevent it. Many agencies have specific policy prescriptions that can serve as guides for action moving forward. Every federal agency has a role to play.

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

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Understanding Antisemitism

Countering antisemitism begins with understanding it. The Executive Branch can increase understanding by taking the following actions: 

Employ Executive Order 13899 | The White House can raise awareness by continuing to employ Executive Order 13899 on Combating Anti-Semitism. Importantly, Executive Order 13899, which was based on the bipartisan Anti-Semitism Awareness Act (S. 852), encourages federal agencies to use the non-legally binding International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) Working Definition of Antisemitism. The White House can also encourage states and localities to adopt and utilize this useful educational tool. The IHRA Working Definition, which can be used to identify evidence of antisemitic discrimination, is paramount because, according to AJC’s State of Antisemitism in America 2023 Report, 30% of Americans are not familiar with antisemitism, including 10% of Americans who have never heard the term before. The Working Definition can provide all federal agencies a common understanding of antisemitism to improve cooperation and effectiveness: 

  • Department of State | During this time of rising global antisemitism, it is critical that governments around the world have the same understanding of what antisemitism can look like. More than 40 countries, the European Union (EU), the Organization of American States, and the U.S. Department of State, and U.S. Department of Education have endorsed the IHRA Working Definition. The White House’s continued recognition of the Working Definition’s utility will send a signal to our allies that the U.S. takes antisemitism seriously and continues to be a leader on this issue. The Secretary of State, along with the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism, should increase efforts to promote the IHRA Working Definition. 
  • Department of Education | Since 2018, the Department of Education has indicated repeatedly that the IHRA Working Definition would help guide its understanding of antisemitism when enforcing Title VI. Now, as the Department investigates more than 40 – and climbing – potential violations of Title VI on schools across the country, the Working Definition can be extremely useful, particularly with regard to antisemitism related to Israel. This particular type of antisemitism has rocked numerous campuses across the United States, not only targeting Jewish students but preventing an environment conducive to learning for all.
  • Department of Justice | The Department of Justice, including the FBI, can utilize the IHRA Working Definition to ensure consistency in understanding antisemitic hate crimes and in law enforcement training programs. The Working Definition can inform law enforcement agencies at all levels as they respond to, investigate, and report on antisemitic hate crimes and acts of domestic terror.

Collect data to understand the problem | Federal agencies should fund and conduct large-scale surveys of American Jews and the general public to ascertain Jewish experiences with antisemitism and root causes. This information can inform and improve everything from security to educational programs. The Department of Education, through the Civil Rights Data Collection (CRDC), should continue to conduct surveys in public primary and secondary schools to gather data on anti-Jewish incidents, including reported allegations of harassment or bullying. The Office of Science and Technology, including the work of the Chief Data Scientist, can also conduct research to better understand the intersection of bias, hatred, and antisemitism and technology. 

Conduct trainings and educational sessions | Federal agencies should offer training programs that include information about bias and discrimination related to religion, national origin, race, and ethnicity, including understanding antisemitism and related forms of discrimination. The Office of Personnel Management (OPM), Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), and White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) should hold these sessions for agency diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA) officers. These sessions should also include workplace religious accommodations as agencies carry out their obligations under Executive Order 14035 (Executive Order on Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility in the Federal Workforce). All of these educational sessions can include information on Judaism, Jewish culture and identity, Jewish diversity, and the history of antisemitism, including the Holocaust. AJC’s Translate Hate visual glossary helps identify antisemitic tropes, words, and symbols that often hide in plain sight, and is a meaningful addition to training programs.

Remind entities receiving federal funds of legal obligations | Federal agencies that have a duty to investigate violations of U.S. law, such as the Department of Education, can help schools, institutions, and community organizations better understand the 1964 Civil Rights Act and relevant Titles. Educational institutions receiving federal funds, for instance, need to be aware of the consequences for failing to protect Jewish students, a title VI violation. Agencies can also take steps to offer assistance to individuals and organizations on how to make claims when these laws are violated.

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Responding to Antisemitism

Issue unequivocal condemnations | The Administration should speak out clearly and forcefully against antisemitism and those who peddle it. There is no higher profile platform than the White House for pushing back against, rejecting, and re-stigmatizing antisemitism. The President and other federal leaders should respond to prominent antisemitic acts and voices and use every appropriate opportunity to reaffirm the Administration’s profound commitment to countering antisemitism. 

Prevent physical attacks and counter domestic terrorism | In the aftermath of the Hamas terrorist attacks against Israel on October 7, 2023 we have seen too many examples of law enforcement seeming to wait for violence to break out during a protest before intervening. The Civil Rights Division at the Department of Justice (DOJ) should proactively provide guidance to local law enforcement agencies about the line between anti-Zionism and antisemitism, to allow for freedom of speech but also ensure prevention of violent antisemitism. Physical attacks against Jews are often perpetrated by white supremacist extremist groups and homegrown violent extremists. A federal plan to address the propagation of extremist ideologies in public institutions, such as prisons and law enforcement units, is recommended as well as the reestablishment of interagency initiatives between federal and state agencies to address domestic terrorism. 

DHS and the FBI should also update and continue to distribute its Protecting Places of Worship: Six Steps to Enhance Security Against Targeted Violence resource. DHS, the FBI, and the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) should include enhancements on antisemitic violent extremism to their First Responder Toolbox. Federal agencies must also critically focus on cybersecurity. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) at DHS should expand outreach to Jewish communities to help them prevent cybersecurity attacks, in addition to active shooter and bomb prevention-related training. 

Mitigate online threats | The White House should back legislative efforts to reform Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act to hold social media companies liable for content on their platforms. Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle and some platforms are calling for such reform. For clarity and consistency, we must ensure one solution, not 50 individual state solutions, sufficiently addresses the problem. Additionally, the U.S. government can designate transnational white supremacists and other extremist groups as terrorist organizations. Doing so mandates that social media companies remove their content and severely limit white supremacists’ ability to recruit online. Relatedly, the White House has taken the lead on convening task forces and/or hosting summits on critical issues. We recommend a federal government-wide summit on antisemitism in all its forms, including best practices on addressing antisemitism in the digital realm, from social media to gaming to generative AI. 

Improve reporting of antisemitic hate crimes | The White House should call on state and local governments to rectify endemic underreporting of hate crimes to the FBI. Inaccurate, incomplete, and simply absent hate crime data has stymied efforts to formulate effective responses. More than 50 cities with populations greater than 100,000 — reported zero or did not report hate crimes to the National Incident Based Reporting System (NIBRS) in 2022, according to the FBI. Local, state, tribal, and federal law enforcement agencies voluntarily submit hate crimes data to the FBI, per the 1990 Hate Crimes Statistics Act. Yet the majority of Americans think it is important for law enforcement to have to report hate crimes data. 93% percent of American Jews and 91% of U.S. adults agree it is very or somewhat important for law enforcement to have to report hate crimes to a federal government database. The Department of Justice should work to increase public awareness of hate crimes and hate crime reporting, including by promoting the hate crimes website, to close the vast gaps in reporting. 

In addition, as listed in the U.S. National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, with the Domestic Policy Council and National Security Council, should launch an interagency effort to understand and eliminate the impediments to reporting hate incidents. This initiative would build on existing efforts to improve criminal justice data reporting and focus on the broader mechanisms that individuals use to communicate hate incidents and social marginalization. Developing a deeper understanding of the social, behavioral, and structural barriers to identifying hate incidents will empower the U.S. government to more accurately capture the frequency and scope of hate incidents and reduce these experiences through evidence-based policies and programs. The Small Business Administration (SBA) should also encourage small businesses to report incidents of antisemitism and other incidents of hate at their businesses to the proper authorities, including local law enforcement and community organizations. 

Build trust with community-based groups | Within the Department of Justice, U.S. Attorney Offices (DOJ), FBI Field Offices, DOJ Community Relations Service members and others should undertake targeted engagement with community-based groups including youth, faith leaders, cultural leaders, and civil rights organizers from Jewish communities and other communities victimized by hate crimes. This engagement will build trust, open dialogue, help reduce the fear and isolation that can arise from hate crimes, promote a common understanding of each community’s security situation and concerns, and enable the sharing of threat information, as appropriate. The White House can update and promote its Toolkit for Faith Communities, which focuses specifically on building relationships across faith communities and responding to hate, discrimination, and bias. Building trust can help ensure victims report hate crimes and faith-based institutions 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).

Engage with the Jewish community | When an antisemitic incident occurs, reach out to Jewish community leaders. Holding regular meetings with Jewish communal representatives to learn about priorities and concerns, and to offer transparency about how federal agencies are responding and taking action, is a way for the White House to model how the government at all levels can generate goodwill and facilitate vital information sharing.

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Preventing Antisemitism

Revise and continue the implementation of a national action plan | In May 2023, the White House published the United States’ first National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism. While the duration of this plan was one year, the White House and the dozens of federal agencies involved can continue to implement their actions to help lower levels of antisemitism in the U.S. The Administration should also support state-level action plans, aligned with national recommendations.

Appoint a National Coordinator to lead interagency coordination | In the United States, while we have a Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism in the U.S. Department of State, his/her focus is external. We do not have a point person within the U.S. government solely focused on combating antisemitism domestically. While the idea of a “domestic antisemitism czar” has pros and cons in our increasingly politicized environment, there is a need to streamline the federal agencies’ responses and responsibilities to combat antisemitism within the United States. The Department of Justice, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Education, Department of State, and several other agencies have different mandates and initiatives to combat antisemitism. To deploy each agency’s resources most effectively, we recommend the White House appoint an official at the federal level to lead interagency coordination and build infrastructure around combating antisemitism, including leading and maintaining the process of sharing federal government efforts with each other and with the Jewish community.

Ensure perpetuity for an Interagency Task Force to Counter Antisemitism | A standing interagency task force or interagency group, which should include representatives from the relevant agencies, is imperative to check in on plan implementation, make adjustments as necessary, and share information about progress across agencies. This task force can follow the important process of regularly bringing different agencies together set up by the Interagency Policy Committee (IPC), which should continue to meet on a regular basis. The task force can also meet with governments around the world who are currently implementing their own national strategies to counter antisemitism to share best practices and lessons learned. For example, more than a dozen EU countries have their own plans and meeting with one’s transatlantic government counterpart can increase cooperation to fight this global challenge. 

Track successes and evaluate | The national coordinator and interagency task force should measure the effectiveness of actions in the plan and readjust if necessary. The plan should be flexible to account for internal and external factors, as antisemitism morphs and changes. We also call on the White House to follow the EU model of collecting input on plan implementation. The European Commission opened a Call for Evidence to assess the progress made by the Member States in implementing the EU’s Strategy on Combating Antisemitism and Fostering Jewish Life. The input collected by the European Commission will inform a progress report. A similar model could be adopted in the United States.

Share information with state and local partners | Federal law enforcement agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the FBI, and the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), should increase information-sharing between federal, state, Tribal, campus, school, and local government entities. They should also regularly engage with tech and social media companies to share threats of violence, as well as share additional educational materials on terrorism, radicalization, and violence, including antisemitic violence. 

Offer targeted engagement programs focused on prevention Federal agencies can work to strengthen community-based violence prevention efforts and expand trainings with state and local partners to prevent violence motivated by hateful ideologies. For example, DHS’s Targeted Violence and Terrorism Prevention grant program and the Center for Prevention Programs and Partnerships (CP3) Regional Prevention Coordinator program can work with Jewish communities to address concerns, build trust, and ensure accessibility. The Community Relations Service of the Department of Justice should launch antisemitism trainings, created in partnership with Jewish communal leaders, for prevention and awareness raising in hot spots around the country. Other agencies, like the Small Business Administration (SBA) can connect small business owners with organizations providing trainings on how to prevent and respond to incidents of antisemitism in the workplace. 

Ensure consequences for violations | Future antisemitism will be prevented if there are consequences for antisemitic behavior in the present. Federal agencies should prosecute antisemitic crimes to the fullest extent of the law. Complaints of antisemitism should also be addressed in a timely manner. For example, the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) in the Department of Education should address antisemitism complaints in schools quickly, and increase the number of Title VI investigators in order to do so. American Jewish Committee (AJC) has long called for increased congressional funding to bolster OCR’s capacity.

Educate to prevent | Federal agencies should ensure they are appropriately acknowledging key dates, including International Holocaust Remembrance Day (January 27) and Jewish American Heritage Month (May). Commemorating the Holocaust on January 27th should also focus on contemporary forms of antisemitism, including Holocaust denial and distortion. Celebrating Jewish heritage, Jewish life, and Jewish contribution to American society in May is vital to educate about who Jews as a people. Federal agencies that have online calendars recognizing heritage and history months should include Jewish American Heritage Month on their websites.

Ensure access to kosher foods | While not guaranteeing access to kosher food is not antisemitic, when kosher food is available, Jews feel welcome and a part of that community. For American Jews who keep kosher, 10% report kosher food is not too or not at all accessible where they live. The Department of Agriculture (USDA) should expand outreach and technical assistance for kosher meat processors and the number of kosher certified foods in their food procurement. Further, FEMA should work to enhance efforts to accommodate religious dietary needs when delivering aid when natural disasters strike.

Bring best practices to the U.S. | The Department of State, and specifically the Office of the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism (SEAS), should share lessons and best practices from abroad to counter antisemitism. The SEAS office can continue to publicize and update their Report on Policies, Programs, and Actions Across the Globe to Combat Antisemitism. The Department of Treasury can work with the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism to prevent transnational hate groups from crowdsourcing funding and share best practices with foreign partners facing these same issues. Particularly since October 7, 2023 as numerous countries have seen exponential surges in anti-Jewish hate – particularly evident on college campuses – the Department of Education should engage with a global cohort of educators and administrators to find common solutions to the transnational issue of antisemitism in educational institutions.

Ensure a whole-of-government response | In all, an approach that integrates the collaborative efforts of all facets of the government will help achieve unity of effort towards addressing antisemitism. White House efforts should involve Congress and include a funding mechanism to meet security, educational, and training needs.

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