For Jewish Americans: What to watch in Joe Biden’s presidency

Here’s a look at what might happen after Biden becomes president on January 20, 2021.

Democratic 2020 U.S. presidential nominee Joe Biden joins vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris onstage at their election rally, after the news media announced that Biden has won the 2020 U.S. presidential election over President Donald Trump, in Wilmington, Delaware, U.S., November 7, 2020. (photo credit: JIM BOURG / REUTERS)
Democratic 2020 U.S. presidential nominee Joe Biden joins vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris onstage at their election rally, after the news media announced that Biden has won the 2020 U.S. presidential election over President Donald Trump, in Wilmington, Delaware, U.S., November 7, 2020.
(photo credit: JIM BOURG / REUTERS)
On Joe Biden’s first day as president, he plans to launch a task force to reunite children and parents separated at the country’s southern border.
It’s one of several ways Biden has vowed to reverse policies put in place by President Donald Trump, and it’s important to many American Jews for whom immigration policy carries an emotional weight.
But on many issues important to American Jews, change may come slower, or not at all.
Here’s a look at what might happen after Biden becomes president on January 20, 2021.
Antisemitism: When Biden launched his campaign in April 2019, he said he had considered retirement — but was appalled by Trump’s equivocations after the deadly neo-Nazi and white supremacist march in 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia. Biden constantly cites combating bigotry and antisemitism specifically in his appearances, including at the Democratic convention.
Biden wants to develop a “comprehensive approach” to combat antisemitism, in consultation with the Jewish community. Trump cut some programs tracking extreme right domestic terrorists; Biden said he will restart them.
Trump last year signed an executive order recognizing Jews as a protected class deserving of civil rights protections. The order used as its definition of antisemitism the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition, which is controversial because it includes some forms of Israel criticism. The order has already resulted in Education Department investigations of extreme anti-Israel activity on campus. Some Democrats embrace the IHRA definition, but civil liberties groups fear that its use as an enforcement tool inhibits speech freedoms. The Biden campaign has not said what its plans are for the executive order.
The Second Guy: Kamala Harris’ husband, Douglas Emhoff, is Jewish; he will not only be the “second gentleman” (caveat: No one has settled on a term for the job), he will be the first Jewish second spouse. Emhoff has been vocal about his Jewish identity, and it will be interesting to see how that plays out in a role that has been used to advance education initiatives.
Immigration: Immigration policy carries a special emotional weight for many Jewish Americans who are mindful of their own heritage of being refugees — and of the devastating toll that the world’s hesitation to accept refugees caused for Jews during the Holocaust. Trump pursued an aggressively anti-immigrant agenda, including by reducing refugee admissions and separating children from their parents at the border, sometimes permanently. Biden has vowed to launch a task force to reunite those families and to dramatically increase refugee admissions.
Read the full analysis here.