WASHINGTON - The White House hosted a roundtable session on Wednesday to discuss the rise of antisemitism in the US. Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff, who is Jewish, led the event. “I'm proud to be Jewish, I am proud to live openly as a Jew, and I'm not afraid,” he told participants, adding: “I will not live in fear.”
Emhoff was joined by Jewish leaders from the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, the American Jewish Committee (AJC), the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), Chabbad, the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW), and the Orthodox Union (OU), among other groups.
Several Senior administration officials, including Ambassador Susan Rice, White House Domestic Policy Advisor, Keisha Lance Bottoms, Senior Advisor to the President for Public Engagement, Shelley Greeenspan, White House Jewish Liaison, and Ambassador Deborah Lipstadt, Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism, represented the White House.
Emoff opened his remarks and said that “there is an epidemic of hate facing our country.”
“Let me be clear: words matter,” Emhoff said. “People are no longer saying the quiet parts out loud, they are screaming them. We cannot normalize this. We all have an obligation to condemn these vile acts. We must not stay silent. There is no either or. There are no two sides. Everyone must be against this.”
"It's who we are. It's our identity. It's my identity. I'm in pain right now,” the Second Gentleman said. “Our community is in pain. It hurts me to see what we're going through right now. We cannot normalize this. There's no both sides on this one. All of us just be against antisemitism."
He went on to say that the event is not the end but rather “just the beginning of this conversation.”
“And as long as I have this microphone, I am going to speak out against hate, bigotry, and lies,” Emhoff said.
“On days like today, I think back to Ellis Island,” Emhoff told participants. “I think about my family members and I think of the promise of America. That a young boy from Brooklyn – who’s family fled persecution – could be sitting here today as the first Second Gentleman of the United States in the White House.”
Ambassador Lipstadt said that for too long, “too many people have failed to take antisemitism seriously.”
“For too long, Jew hatred has been belittled or discounted because Jews have wrongly been considered white and privileged,” she said. “This is a very real threat to Jews. Antisemitism don't stop with hating Jews, their antisemitism is the tip of the iceberg of hate and prejudice.”
"The antisemitism we've seen is shocking"
Ted Deutch, CEO of AJC, told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday that “we’re at a moment in our country where the antisemitism that we’ve seen is shocking, not just to the Jewish community, but to America as a whole.”
“We will be proud to participate because our mission is to enhance the well-being of the Jewish community, and that starts with helping the community fight antisemitism at this most difficult time,” he said. “And we know, as the president and the second gentleman have said, that the White House and the administration can play an unparalleled role in focusing on sustained engagement with the community to help us address that.”
“We have to view it as a threat to the Jewish community, as the threat to society at large,” said Deutch. “Because when you allow antisemitism to go unchecked, it’s never just the Jews who are at risk [although] they are always first.”
Jonathan Greenblatt, ADL CEO welcomed the White House’s decision to convene the roundtable, calling it “much-needed.”
“We are grateful for the actions that the Biden Administration has taken so far,” said Greenblatt. “As President Biden said just the other day, “Silence is complicity.” As ADL data has consistently shown, now is the time for a whole-of-government approach.”
“The administration must adopt a unified national strategy to meet the moment of the day most effectively,” Greenblatt said. “We continue to urge lawmakers, policy leaders, and civil society to speak out and condemn antisemitism wherever they see it, and ADL adds its unequivocal support to that of over 120 Members of Congress calling on the Administration to form an interagency task force to address antisemitism.”