Coming Together to Combat Anti-Semitism

By: Senator James Lankford (R-OK) and Jacky Rosen (D-NV)

Too often, Members of Congress feel compelled to highlight what divides us. In an age of intense partisanship and ideological division, it is an easy trap – one that can distract us from addressing the core issues on which we agree and can take action. Today, the two of us – a practicing Jewish Democrat from Nevada and a devoted Christian Republican from Oklahoma – are calling on our colleagues to set aside the labels, the bickering, and the grandstanding to join together to take on one of the most disturbing trends of our time. We stand united in the common goal to defeat hate and combat the violent scourge of anti-Semitism. 

Anti-Semitism is on the rise both around the world and unfortunately in some American communities. In some ways, this is nothing new – we have seen the spread of anti-Semitism in political movements across Europe for some time now. Anti-Semitic actors have for years organized within political parties in places like Greece, Hungary, and France. They’ve expanded their influence online, and we’re now seeing individuals who once hid these dangerous views feeling emboldened to engage in hate.

However, we have not only seen anti-Semitism in the images of desecrated synagogues in Europe and the rambling bigotry of online manifestos, but also in swastikas graffitied on American college campuses, in hate speech here in the U.S., and – exactly one year ago in Pittsburgh – in the loss of 11 of our fellow Americans, when our country experienced the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in modern American history. We are also just past the two year anniversary of when Neo-Nazis gathered by the hundreds in Charlottesville, wielding torches and chanting “Jews will not replace us”. And we saw it again this past April, when innocent Jewish Americans were shot down while in the act of prayer at a synagogue in Poway, California.

These are not isolated incidents. In the United States, we’ve seen evidence that anti-Semitism and acts of hate are growing at an alarming rate. The State Department’s Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism earlier this year called the rise in anti-Semitism worse than it has been in decades. And the impacts go far beyond the Jewish community alone. The United States Holocaust Museum offers this warning: “History has shown that wherever anti-Semitism has gone unchecked, the persecution of others has been present or not far behind. Defeating anti-Semitism must be a cause of great importance not only for Jews, but for all people who value humanity and justice.”

As Members of Congress, our responsibility to our neighbors, to our friends, to our community, and to our children is to work together in a bipartisan way to prevent anti-Semitism before it starts – to educate, to explain, and to empower. That is why earlier this year, we both joined over fifty of our colleagues – Democrats and Republicans – as original co-sponsors of bipartisan legislation condemning anti-Semitism in the United States and committing the U.S. Senate to taking action to combat it. This legislation passed the Senate by Unanimous Consent, and now it is our obligation to live up to its promise to take bold steps to effect change. 

For that reason, and in memory of those lost in Pittsburgh one year ago today, we are launching the Senate’s first Bipartisan Task Force for Combating Anti-Semitism. 

The mission of the Task Force will be to collaborate with law enforcement, federal agencies, state and local government, educators, advocates, clergy, and other stakeholders to combat anti-Semitism by educating and empowering our communities. We shall accomplish this by speaking with one voice to call out hate, support legislative efforts to combat anti-Semitism, promote Holocaust education, and bring the issue of combating anti-Semitism to the forefront of our national conversation. We will build upon the important work done by the House of Representatives’ Bipartisan Task Force for Combating Anti-Semitism, working together to address this urgent issue and to identify and highlight areas where we can take action and develop solutions to eliminate hatred from our communities and from our country.  

To be clear: this will be a bipartisan task force because combating hate is a non-partisan issue. During this time when anti-Semitism and bigotry are on the rise, it is vitally important that we not allow ideological or partisan thinking to blur our perspective of what is right and what is wrong. These are challenging times, but in great darkness, it is all the more important that we band together, as a community, as a country, and as a Congress to hold up our faith and our values as a source of light. 

Today, one year after the acts of hate in Pittsburgh, we say enough is enough. Those who care about religious liberty and protecting our communities from violence and hate must speak out. We recognize the seriousness of this issue, and we’re banding together, across religious and party lines, to take on anti-Semitism, head on.