What has the situation for Jews in the United States come to if the president needs to issue an executive order to combat antisemitism?Forget for a moment about all the backlash surrounding the executive order – and there has been an enormous amount, ranging from thoughtful, qualitative considerations of free speech and criticism of Israel, and babbling debate about whether Jews are a nation, race or religion, to absurd claims that its enactment marks the beginning of an ominous era aimed at seperating Jewish people out of the collective. Instead, let’s focus on the facts. In 2019, nearly 75 years after the end of World War II and the Holocaust – years in which American Jews experienced unprecedented freedom and opportunity and rose to become a hugely proactive force across all facets of American life – there is a remarkably frightening rise in violent antisemitism.What is US President Donald Trump’s executive order? It directs the Justice Department and the Education Department to address discrimination cases against Jews under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, which stipulates that discrimination on the basis of “race, color or national origin” is prohibited. It also adopts the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism, which states that efforts to demonize, delegitimize or apply double standards to Israel are antisemitic.In Jersey City this week, two gunmen drove into the city’s ultra-Orthodox community and opened fire in a kosher grocery store. Five people were killed. The event added the city to a growing list of those that have experienced anti-Jewish aggression and murder, including Poway and Pittsburgh.Data shows that 2017 and 2018 had among the highest annual rates of antisemitic incidents in almost 40 years. At a press conference after the Jersey City attack on Wednesday, New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio stated, “There’s a crisis of antisemitism gripping the nation.”Aspects of the executive order promoted feverish denunciation by Jewish left-wingers, who vehemently objected to Jewishness being attributed to nationhood in any way, and implied that the order was a fascist step leading to a new Holocaust, Jeremy Sharon reported in The Jerusalem Post.But as Mark Joseph Stern wrote in Slate, the executive order does not redefine Judaism as a race or nationality, nor claim that Jews are a nation or different race. “The order’s interpretation of Title VI – insofar as the law applies to Jews – is entirely in line with the Obama administration’s approach. It only deviates from past practice by suggesting that harsh criticism of Israel – specifically, the notion that it is ‘a racist endeavor’ – may be used as evidence to prove antisemitic intent.”The other criticism of the executive order is that it could risk silencing legitimate debate about Israel’s policies. JStreet issued a predictable statement stating that the order “appears designed less to combat antisemitism than to have a chilling effect on free speech and to crack down on campus critics of Israel.” Nonetheless, as Stern wrote in Slate, “There is good reason, however, to doubt that the order can actually be used to suppress non-bigoted disapproval of Israel on college campuses.”The disparate reactions to the executive order are representative of the varied interpretations of Trump’s statements. This is illustrated by his speech last week at the Israel America Council in Hollywood, Florida, where pro-Trump supporters heard him profess love for Israel and Jews, while detractors heard him use well-worn antisemitic tropes about Jews, money and power. Each side heard the same speech, yet walked away with different messages.Although the executive order’s impact is likely to be inconsequential when dealing with the mounting onslaught of venom against Jews in the US, it needn’t be treated like a political football. The issue of antisemitism is too real to become another partisan issue between Right and Left. The death of innocent victims in Jersey City, Poway and Pittsburgh mean it’s time to start a serious discussion.