White House Hosts Antisemitism Meeting Amid Concerns From Jewish Leaders, 100-plus Lawmakers

Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff hosted lawmakers from both parties at the White House, where he said ‘people are no longer saying the quiet parts out loud, they are screaming them’

Ben Samuels
Ben Samuels
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Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff, who will lead the meeting on Wednesday, speaks during a reception to celebrate Rosh Hashanah earlier this year.
Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff, who will lead the meeting on Wednesday, speaks during a reception to celebrate Rosh Hashanah earlier this year.Credit: Susan Walsh /AP
Ben Samuels
Ben Samuels

WASHINGTON — Leading American-Jewish organizations met with senior U.S. officials, led by Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff, at the White House on Wednesday to address rising antisemitism in America.

Concerns over antisemitism have been ever present since the Biden administration took office, though they have spiked in recent months following Elon Musk’s Twitter takeover, antisemitic conspiracy theories platformed by celebrities like Kanye West and Kyrie Irving, and Donald Trump's association with avowed Holocaust denier Nick Fuentes.

The Department of Homeland Security last week issued a terrorism advisory bulletin raising concerns about “enduring threats” to Jews, as well as LGBTQ and migrant communities, from violent extremists inside the U.S.

Emhoff, the first Jewish spouse of a president or vice president, will be flanked by officials including Susan Rice, Biden’s domestic policy advisor, as well as antisemitism envoy Deborah Lipstadt and senior advisor for public engagement Keisha Lance Bottoms. According to a White House official, Emhoff told the Jewish leaders, including representatives from every denomination, that “right now, there is an epidemic of hate facing our country.”

“Let me be clear: words matter. People are no longer saying the quiet parts out loud, they are screaming them,” Emhoff said. “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,”

“For me, this is not the end. This is 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,” the second gentleman continued, noting that “on days like today, I think back to Ellis Island. I think about my family members and I think of the promise of America. That a young boy from Brooklyn – whose family fled persecution – could be sitting here today as the first Second Gentleman of the United States in the White House.”

Emhoff has made combatting antisemitism a central tenet of his career in public office, consistently decrying instances of antisemitism whether it's in the news or not, and meeting with both everyday and leading Jewish Americans, in hopes of putting a spotlight on the matter.

“Truth is truth, facts are facts, history is history,” he told Haaretz at the U.S. Holocaust Museum earlier this year. “I plan to keep speaking out about antisemitism particularly, and the epidemic of hate that we're seeing, more generally.”

The meeting comes days after 125 bipartisan, bicameral lawmakers urged the Biden administration to adopt a whole-of-government approach to combatting antisemitism, including the creation of an interagency task force.

“Because many individual agencies play a critical role in combating antisemitism, closer coordination is needed to share best practices, data, and intelligence; identify gaps in efforts; streamline overlapping activities and roles; and execute a unified national strategy,” read the letter, spearheaded by Jewish Democratic Sen. Jacky Rosen of Nevada.

“History has taught us that attacks and conspiracy theories that target Jews not only threaten Jews, but frequently grow to threaten the security of other communities and the foundations of democracy,” they added, citing an FBI report claiming there was a six-percent rise in antisemitic hate crimes in 2020.

The summit also comes three months after the first-ever White House summit aimed at combating hate-motivated violence, where it announced a series of actions and commitments. The administration has also worked with Congress to secure the largest-ever increase in funding for the security of synagogues and other religious institutions.

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