As Prepared For Delivery:
Thank you, Jonathan, and good afternoon, everyone. My thanks to the Anti-Defamation League for the opportunity to speak at this year’s National Leadership Summit.
Jonathan, we deeply appreciate ADL’s work to combat hate in the United States and around the world. Thank you for your leadership and engagement with the Biden-Harris Administration as we work to root out antisemitism and advance civil rights at home.
The Biden-Harris Administration is deeply committed to this work, because we are alarmed by the rise of antisemitism in the United States of America and the fact that, shockingly, it is becoming normalized.
In the last months, we’ve seen certain celebrities, athletes, and politicians use their influential platforms to deny the Holocaust, elevate bigots, and spread antisemitic conspiracy theories. Those viewpoints aren’t just vile. They’re dangerous.
Hateful acts have hit at home right here in the Washington metropolitan area. In November, a man distributed antisemitic flyers outside of homes in D.C.’s Kalorama neighborhood. In September, a swastika was found on a ceiling tile in Anderson Hall at American University. This semester, a rash of antisemitic incidents—from hate speech to graffiti—have terrorized Jewish students at elementary, middle, and high schools in Montgomery County, Maryland.
And that’s just a recent, local sampling.
ADL has tracked thousands of other incidents—nearly 3,700 of them in 2022 alone. That figure is up by almost 400% since 2013. ADL’s commitment to producing high-quality data is invaluable.
President Biden cares deeply about the issue of antisemitism. The horrific march in Charlottesville inspired him to run for President to help restore the soul of our nation, as he recently discussed in a moving Op-Ed on antisemitism published during Passover.
I, too, feel this issue personally. As a Black woman, I’ve known all my life what it means to be hated or feared for who I am and what I represent. I also know the value of allyship and unity in confronting hate. I was raised in the tradition of Goodman, Schwerner, and Chaney. I know that none of us is safe when any of us is targeted.
Washington’s Jewish community shaped so much of my upbringing. I grew up in Shepherd Park, when it was a mixed Jewish and Black neighborhood. My family home used to belong to the Israeli Embassy, and we kept a mezuzah on our doorframe. I was taught the Sh’ma from my Jewish classmates and welcomed at seders in their homes. I was fortunate to travel with my father and brother to Israel for the first time at age 14 and visit Yad Vashem, Masada, and a working kibbutz. And, somewhere along the way, I think I learned to nail the whole chutzpah thing.
Jewish commitments to justice and tikkun olam—repairing the world—have long been sources of inspiration for me.
But, as this group knows all too well, we still have a lot of “tikkun” to do when it comes to the dangerous threat of antisemitism.
Like the President, I take antisemitism personally. Not only because it targets a community that I consider mishpacha, but because it hurts us all. White, Black, Asian, Latino, and Native American. Evangelical Christian, Muslim, and Sikh. Rural and urban, Democrat and Republican, disabled, LGBTQI+ and straight.
Antisemitic incidents, whether online or in person, threaten Jews’ sense of safety. Yet, all of us are worse off when the Jewish community is intimidated, harassed, and attacked for who they are or how they worship. We know all too well that those who peddle antisemitism typically traffic in many forms of hatred.
Equally, antisemitism is an affront to our Constitution. It threatens our country’s most essential ideals, including freedom of religion. Antisemitism undermines and corrodes our democracy, weakening us at home and abroad. And thus, it threatens our very way of life. So, we must come together to ensure that everyone is able to practice their faith and live their identity without fear.
When I was Ambassador to the United Nations and National Security Advisor, I witnessed the ugly impacts of antisemitism in the international arena. At the UN, I was proud to defend Israel against unfair attacks on its legitimacy and security.
I embraced this role with passion, because I loathe injustice. I loathe antisemitism, racism, and any form of hatred.
And yet, even after having spent nearly five years at the UN, I could not have predicted the extent to which antisemitism would take root here at home. Whether in Charlottesville or Colleyville, this renewed wave of antisemitism has become all too familiar.
That’s why a firm and unrelenting response—from government, business, and civil society—is essential.
And that is exactly the type of action we have taken, and will continue to take, in the Biden-Harris Administration.
In 2021, President Biden signed the Jabara-Heyer NO HATE Act, which enhances state and local law enforcement agencies’ ability to respond to hate crimes. The Department of Justice has turned a laser focus on prosecuting hate crimes—including filing hate crime charges against the man who allegedly shot and wounded two Jewish men leaving synagogues in Los Angeles.
In fiscal year 2022, President Biden secured a 40% increase in the Non-Profit Security Grant Program, which supports the physical security of non-profit organizations, including synagogues and other houses of worship. We are also proud to have developed the first-ever U.S. National Strategy for Countering Domestic Terrorism, since domestic terrorism is the most urgent terrorism threat we face today.
After the racist mass shooting in Buffalo, leaders from the Jewish, Black, Latino, and Asian communities, including ADL, came to us to recommend a White House summit to demonstrate national unity against hate-fueled violence.
So, at the United We Stand Summit last September, we affirmed that we’re stronger when we unite against hatred than when we stand alone. Under the President’s leadership, we locked arms as allies to reject and marginalize the hate that plagues our country.
We are elevating Jewish voices and leadership within our own Administration. Ambassador Deborah Lipstadt is the first Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism to have been appointed at the Ambassador level.
Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff has focused crucial attention on the rise of antisemitism.
We were delighted to hold the first High Holiday reception at the White House and to establish the first permanent White House menorah during Hanukkah.
And, we’ve worked closely with agencies to ensure they are celebrating Jewish Americans’ contributions, including during Jewish American Heritage Month.
Finally, I am proud to have established the Interagency Policy Committee to Counter Antisemitism, Islamophobia, and Related Forms of Bias and Discrimination, which I lead with my colleague, Homeland Security Advisor Liz Sherwood-Randall, who spoke this morning. Our top order of business, as you know, is to develop the first-ever U.S. national strategy to counter antisemitism, which we aim to release later this month.
The strategy focuses on actions we all can take—throughout society—to raise awareness and prevent antisemitism, to protect Jews, and to build allyship across communities. We must use all the tools at our disposal in the federal government to counter antisemitism, as well as call on Congress and state and local governments to take additional action.
To develop this strategy, we’ve held listening sessions with more than 1,000 diverse stakeholders across the Jewish community and beyond, from college students to Jews of color to Haredi Jews. We’ve worked closely with agencies to develop new policies and practices. We’ve met at the White House with Special Envoys who combat antisemitism around the globe to learn from their best practices. We’ve engaged leaders on the Hill and from across civil society, the private sector, the tech community, religious groups, and countless others.
As part of that engagement, I reviewed closely ADL’s recommendations and found them to be helpful, creative, and smart. Thank you.
We share ADL’s conviction that this national strategy must be more than a government initiative. We need diverse individuals and entities to help—whether in the classroom or the workplace, on gaming platforms or at professional sporting events, in churches or mosques, and beyond. We all have a role to play in raising awareness of antisemitism, eradicating antisemitic speech and conduct, protecting Jewish institutions and communities, and building solidarity across communities.
Unity and allyship are key. The strategy we’re developing will also help us combat other pernicious forms of hate and strengthen our democracy—both critical Administration priorities. We appreciate the fact that ADL works aggressively to combat bigotry in partnership with so many others. We can conquer hate, but only by joining forces with one another.
As the extraordinary Shimon Peres, a man I was grateful to count as a friend, once wrote, “The Jews’ greatest contribution to history is dissatisfaction!” So, in the spirit of President Peres, let me make my dissatisfaction abundantly clear.
We are committed to doing everything in our power to beat back and root out antisemitism wherever it
exists. We are committed to making Jewish Americans, and all Americans, safer. And, we will remain dissatisfied until the job is done.
Dissatisfaction is at the heart of tikkun olam. The world is imperfect and in constant need of repair. Fortunately, the power to repair, the power to change, remains in our hands.
We look forward to continuing this fight together.