January 19, 2021 — Washington, D.C.
Senior American Jewish Committee (AJC) experts on antisemitism briefed FBI executives on the continuing threats antisemitism poses to Jews and American society.
“Antisemitism fundamentally is not only a Jewish problem; it is a societal one. It is a reflection on the declining health of our society,” Holly Huffnagle, AJC’s U.S. Director for Combating Antisemitism, told the FBI officials on a video conference briefing. “Education is essential, to clarify what constitutes antisemitism, the various sources of this hatred, and what effective tools are available for law enforcement to fight antisemitism.”
The January 14 briefing was the second AJC provided since the organization issued its first State of Antisemitism in America 2020 report in October 2019. Alan Ronkin, Director of AJC’s Washington, DC Region, and Avi Mayer, AJC’s Managing Director of Global Communications, also addressed the FBI officials. The earlier briefing occurred at FBI headquarters in person in December 2019.
The presentation of AJC’s second annual report on antisemitism in the U.S. took place in the wake of the January 6 assault on Capitol Hill, where antisemitic images and threats were openly conveyed by some of the rioters.
AJC’s 2020 report, based on parallel surveys of the American Jewish and general populations, revealed that 88% of Jews considered antisemitism a problem today in the U.S., 37% had personally been victims of antisemitism over the past five years and 31% had taken measures to conceal their Jewishness in public.
In the first-ever survey of the general U.S. population on antisemitism, AJC found a stunning lack of awareness of antisemitism. Nearly half of all Americans said they had either never heard the term “antisemitism” (21%) or are familiar with the word but not sure what it means (25%).
During the hourlong videoconference conversation, FBI officials requested copies of AJC’s Translate Hate publication for distribution to agents in order to enhance their understanding of antisemitism. Translate Hate is an innovative digital resource aimed at enabling Americans of all backgrounds to recognize and expose antisemitic language and images and recommends actions to take against hate speech.
The AJC experts complimented the FBI for its annual Hate Crimes Statistics report, which provides vital data on antisemitism. The latest report found 60.2% of religious bias hate crimes targeted Jews in 2019. But the report historically has not provided a full picture of the extent of hate crimes, since reporting by local law enforcement agencies is not mandatory.
To improve the monitoring and reporting of hate crimes, AJC continues to advocate for passage of Jabara-Heyer National Opposition to Hate, Assaults, and Threats to Equality (NO HATE) Act. This measure will incentivize state and local law enforcement authorities to improve hate crime reporting by making grants available, to be managed through the Department of Justice.
In addition, AJC is asking the FBI to use the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) Working Definition of Antisemitism as an educational tool. The definition offers a clear and comprehensive description of antisemitism in its various forms, including hatred and discrimination against Jews, Holocaust denial, and antisemitism as it can relate to Israel.
FBI officials in the Bureau’s Civil Rights Unit, Intelligence Division, and Community Outreach Program, among others, participated in the AJC briefing.
"The FBI is the primary federal agency responsible for investigating allegations regarding violations of federal civil rights statutes,” said Special Agent in Charge (SAC) James A. Dawson. “At the FBI Washington Field Office, our civil rights and community outreach programs work closely with our partners to prevent and address hate crimes and uphold the civil rights of all individuals in the communities we serve.”
“The FBI has also established productive and meaningful liaison relationships with state and local law enforcement agencies, prosecutors, non-governmental organizations, and community and minority groups to improve reporting of civil rights violations, promote the benefits of sharing information and intelligence, and develop proactive strategies for identifying and addressing trends in this field,” Dawson added.