April 28, 2019 — New York
American Jewish Committee (AJC), the leading global Jewish advocacy group, is calling for urgent action at all levels of government to intensify the fight against antisemitism.
The call comes following the violent attack on Chabad of Poway, a synagogue near San Diego, California, that left one worshiper dead and several wounded. Law enforcement authorities have arrested a 19-year-old and charged him with murder and committing a hate crime. His “manifesto” makes chilling reading about race, about Israel, and his larger world view.
“When will this open-hunting season on Jews end?” said AJC CEO David Harris, adding that "the need for beefed-up efforts to combat antisemitism in the United States should be abundantly clear.”
“Once again, American Jews are compelled to ask what more can be done to protect houses of worship, indeed all Jewish institutions, even as we extend our deep condolences to the family and friends of Lori Gilbert Kaye, and full recovery of those wounded, including a child, in this heinous attack during a Shabbat service on the last day of Passover,” said Harris.
The weekend attack comes only six months after the killing of 11 worshipers from three congregations inside the Tree of Life building in Pittsburgh, the most lethal antisemitic attack in American history.
“Without in any way minimizing the incredibly dedicated efforts of officials to date, heightened action is required, or else we sadly could one day be reacting to yet another attack on a synagogue, or for that matter, on a church or a mosque, or another house of worship,” said Harris.
Noting that Jews, according to the FBI, remain the primary target of religiously-motivated hate crimes, and estimated incidents in the U.S. rose nearly 60 percent in 2018, Harris called on Congress to take two actions immediately.
AJC is urging all Members of Congress join the Bipartisan Taskforce for Combating Antisemitism. The Taskforce, created in 2015 with AJC input, plays a critical role in coordinating congressional efforts, such as legislation and interparliamentary engagement, to combat antisemitism. While its initial focus was largely antisemitism abroad, it's evident that much of the attention now needs to be focused domestically.
“Any Member of Congress who has not yet joined the Bipartisan Taskforce for Combating Antisemitism should please consider doing so now. Full membership will send a powerful message of bipartisan unity that the specific antisemitism cancer must be confronted head-on and whatever its source,” said Harris.
As a second urgent step, AJC is calling on Congress to hold hearings on violence motivated by white supremacist ideologies. The individuals who carried out the deadly attacks at the synagogues in Pittsburgh and Poway were adherents of such ideologies. Earlier, AJC called on the U.S. government to make the examination of white supremacists a national priority.