President Joe Biden released a statement Friday condemning anti-Semitic violence, but not before a number of Jewish groups wrote a letter demanding he take action after a week of silence and only one tweet about the growing problem, Breitbart reported.
Anti-Semitic violence has surged in the United States in recent weeks, coinciding with clashes between Israel and Hamas after the terrorist group launched thousands of rockets into densely populated centers in Israel.
Jewish people have been attacked by groups of pro-Palestinian protesters outside restaurants in New York and Los Angeles and on the streets, and synagogues and Jewish museums in several locations have been vandalized.
Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, called the spike in violence a “tidal wave” compared to previous times of conflict between Israel and Hamas, according to Time.
The initial silence from Biden was deafening, especially given the fact that the same week he had signed an anti-Asian hate crime bill.
A week after the violence started, Biden finally broke his silence with a tweet calling the violence “despicable.”
The recent attacks on the Jewish community are despicable, and they must stop. I condemn this hateful behavior at home and abroad — it’s up to all of us to give hate no safe harbor.
— President Biden (@POTUS) May 24, 2021
But the tweet was not enough for Jewish advocacy groups, who asked Biden to take six specific actions against the violence: condemn them publicly; appoint an envoy at the State Department to monitor and combat violence against Jews; re-establish the White House Jewish liaison position; hold a meeting between White House officials and Jewish leaders to discuss the problem; preserve former President Donald Trump’s 2019 executive order classifying anti-Semitic discrimination as a violation of Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act; and provide funding for enhanced security at religious buildings.
Biden meets with Jewish leaders
After the initial reluctance, the administration has granted some of these requests. In a statement Friday, Biden said, “These attacks are despicable, unconscionable, un-American, and they must stop. I will not allow our fellow Americans to be intimidated or attacked because of who they are or the faith they practice. We cannot allow the toxic combination of hatred, dangerous lies, and conspiracy theories to put our fellow Americans at risk.”
He also met with both the letter writers and later with over four dozen Jewish leaders in two separate Zoom meetings on May 24 and 26. Leaders called the meetings productive, but neither side disclosed what exactly was discussed.
On May 26, DHS officials released a public safety notification to local and state law enforcement about the violence, telling them to be aware of the recent spike. DHS also held online informational meetings with Jewish groups to help them apply for existing grants to enhance security of their buildings.
Some Jewish leaders were frustrated that it took a letter to Biden for anything to happen. “I don’t know the meeting would have happened without the letter,” said U.S. Director for Combating Anti-Semitism at the American Jewish Committee Holly Huffnagle, according to Time. “You would think there would be this ‘aha’ moment about anti-Semitism in America. It’s always like, why do we have to ask?”