WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Chair of the U.S. Helsinki Commission and Special Representative on Anti-Semitism, Racism, and Intolerance for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Parliamentary Assembly, convened a meeting Tuesday at the U.S. Capitol of high-level officials across the government and nonprofit sector who are actively engaged in countering antisemitism and preventing violent hate-based activity. Joining Senator Cardin for the meeting were Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Co-Chair of the Senate Bipartisan Task Force for Combating Antisemitism, and Congressman Marc Veasey (D-Tex.-33), a member of the U.S. Helsinki Commission.
From the executive branch, participants included:
The White House
- Special Assistant to the President and Executive Director of the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships
Department of State
- Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism
Department of Justice
- Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights
- Executive Assistant Director of the Criminal, Cyber, Response, and Services Branch
Department of Homeland Security
- Under Secretary for Strategy, Policy, and Plans
Nonprofit or civil society participants included representatives of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council, Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and the American Jewish Committee (AJC).
At the meeting, there was clear consensus, based on data from law enforcement and polling that the number of antisemitic incidents has been rising at an alarming rate. President Joe Biden has been outspoken on this issue and has encouraged a “whole-of-society” response to prevent, respond to and recover from hate-fueled violence. In that spirit, this first working group meeting was convened to encourage better communication across agencies, throughout the government and with civil society organizations that have been key in identifying and responding to antisemitic and other hate-based activity. Coordination is happening but it could be better, and attendees expressed a willingness to make that happen.
Recapping the meeting, Senator Cardin noted: “It was vital at this time, with so many blatant antisemitic incidents and public celebrity rants, that we bring together this group of professionals who are dealing with this issue daily. I thank them all for their time and ongoing commitment to this issue. Instances of antisemitism need to be addressed publicly or the perpetrators will be emboldened. In addition to being fueled by hate and ignorance, we agreed that antisemitism threatens democracy with its irrational conspiracy theories that weaken support for democratic processes and basics of government. America is not alone with the problem of growing antisemitism,” Cardin added: “We can and should be doing more. A unified, national strategy on countering antisemitism is needed. While finding the proper balance between protecting free speech and protecting Americans from harm, we need to up our game, rebuild coalitions with other groups that have been the target of hate-based violence, and institutionalize coordination that counters antisemitism wherever it is found. We cannot allow antisemitism to be mainstreamed, nor can fighting it become a partisan issue.”
This first working group meeting was convened under the auspices of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE), also known as the U.S. Helsinki Commission. The Helsinki Commission is an independent agency of the Federal Government charged with monitoring compliance with the Helsinki Accords and advancing comprehensive security through promotion of human rights, democracy, and economic, environmental and military cooperation in 57 countries – including the United States.