J Street Opposes the House-Passed Antisemitism Awareness Act, Urges Senate to Prioritize Passage of the Countering Antisemitism Act

May 17, 2024

J Street strongly opposes the House-passed Antisemitism Awareness Act, H.R. 6090, and urges lawmakers in the Senate to oppose this bill if it is brought to a vote. J Street is deeply concerned by the antisemitism that is rampant throughout the country, and we have condemned instances of antisemitic intimidation that have occurred on certain college campuses. While we stand with Congress in its pursuit to pass meaningful legislation to address antisemitism, H.R. 6090 is not that legislation. As a meaningful alternative, we are encouraging Senators to co-sponsor Senator Rosen and Lankford’s Countering Antisemitism Act, which takes steps to implement President Biden’s National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism.

Instead of making the Jewish community safer, the Antisemitism Awareness Act would create a chilling effect on free speech and undermine President Biden’s National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism. The Act requires the Department of Education to exclusively utilize the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) Working Definition of Antisemitism and its “contemporary examples” to combat antisemitism, arguing that the use of other definitions “impairs” enforcement.

On its own, the IHRA Working Definition, coupled with its contemporary examples, is overly broad and can label legitimate political speech and critique of Israel as inherently antisemitic. We are concerned that this concerted campaign to require the use of the IHRA definition and its examples by law and regulation creates significant opportunities for abuse and politicization, including by future MAGA-aligned administrations.

IHRA was designed to be used as a tool to help identify antisemitism – not as a single codified and rigid definition, which is why President Biden’s National Strategy to Combat Antisemitism intentionally recognizes several useful resources, including the Nexus definition of antisemitism. It is critical to acknowledge that antisemitism takes many forms, and that countering it requires us to use a diverse set of tools. Reducing the tools available to the Department of Education or any other branch of the United States government undermines the President’s administration and does not make American Jews safer.

We therefore urge the Senate to prioritize passing Senator Rosen and Lankford’s Countering Antisemitism Act. Though we are painfully aware of the fact that antisemites use critique of Israel and other opportunities as vehicles to spread hatred against the Jewish people, our focus should be on policies that make American Jews safer, without restricting legitimate discourse or limiting the tools available to combat antisemitism.