Congress must act to protect Jews amid a massive increase in antisemitic incidents

Posted on January 26, 2024 In Op-ed

Recently, hundreds of radicalized high school students rampaged through Hillcrest Public School in Queens in reaction to revelations that a Jewish teacher’s had attended a pro-Israel rally last week.

We were shocked but not surprised. The incident, which forced the teacher to hide in a locked office for hours, comes after a 400 percent increase in antisemitic incidents in the U.S. since Hamas’s attack on Israel on Oct. 7.

With Congress back in session this week, concrete measures addressing antisemitism and keeping Jewish communities safe must be front and center for legislators.

Before the Thanksgiving recess, in the same week that 300,000 people marched on the National Mall in support of Israel, at least three hearings took place on Capitol Hill to fight antisemitism, including the Education and Workforce Committee’s hearing “Confronting the Scourge of Antisemitism on Campus.” 

“It is in your hands (Congress) to ensure that Title VI is respected and enforced,” Rabbi Moshe Hauer told the committee, “and those same hateful words chanted in our streets not be part of the government-funded environments of our educational institutions that have tragically become discriminatory environments inhospitable to Jews.”

Indeed, there are several critical pieces of legislation Congress should pass this month.

First, Congress must allocate an emergency $200 million in funding for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program in the emergency supplemental appropriations package, which is proposed to deliver aid to Israel and other urgent needs. Synagogues have seen a spate of vandalism, bomb threats and more. American Jews must be able to exercise our freedom of worship with freedom from fear. Grants from the Nonprofit Security Grant Program provide essential resources to protect synagogues and other Jewish community institutions from these threats.

Similarly, Congress should allocate more funds to the Justice Department grant programs that support local police. Immediately after Oct. 7, many local police departments stepped up their presence and protection of our communities. But many have since pulled back, citing a lack of resources. The antisemitic atmosphere remains in place, and Congress must provide funds to pay police overtime to keep our communities safe.