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White House will release its plan to combat antisemitism later this month, senior officials say

Susan Rice, President Joe Biden’s outgoing domestic policy adviser, addressed the ADL’s leadership summit in DC

The White House plans to release a national strategy to combat antisemitism later this month, senior Biden administration officials told a group of Jewish leaders Monday. The document incorporates conversations with more than a thousand Jewish community leaders across denominations.

The co-chairs of the White House’s interagency task force to develop the plan — Susan Rice, President Joe Biden’s outgoing domestic policy adviser; and Liz Sherwood-Randall, the president’s assistant for homeland security — addressed it at the Anti-Defamation League’s leadership summit in Washington, D.C. 

In her remarks, peppered with Jewish and Hebrew phrases, Rice said the administration is committed to using all the tools at its disposal to combat antisemitism and urged Congress and state and local governments to take additional action. ”We are committed to doing everything in our power to beat back and root out antisemitism wherever it exists,” she said. 

The administration also conducted interviews with leaders from the Muslim and other minority communities to develop the plan, which focuses primarily on antisemitism, but addresses bigotry against other groups as well. Senior administration officials met with Muslim leaders at the White House on Tuesday to discuss the plan. 

The ADL’s annual audit of 2022 counted 3,697 antisemitic incidents last year, the highest number since it started tracking antisemitism in 1979, and a 36% increase from 2021.  For its 2021 U.S. audit, the ADL changed the way it gathered information on antisemitism by including incidents reported by partner organizations, which contributed to a higher total number of cases.

“Jewish commitments to justice and tikkun olam — repairing the world — have long been sources of inspiration for me,” Rice said. “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.” She announced last week she would step down from her post on May 26, after Biden announced his reelection bid

Rice said the administration is also “elevating Jewish voices and leadership” within the administration, like Doug Emhoff, the Jewish husband of Vice President Kamala Harris, who took part in a meeting of the White House’s task force in February, and Deborah E. Lipstadt, the State Department’s special envoy to monitor and combat global antisemitism. 

Abe Foxman, ADL’s former national director, who developed a close relationship with Rice before his retirement in 2015, said he recently spoke with her about the White House plan and predicts it will be a “historic, innovative and creative initiative” to fight rising antisemitism.

Rice, the first Black woman U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, also noted her personal connections to the Jewish community. She grew up in Shepherd Park, a mixed Jewish and Black neighborhood in Washington, D.C.,, and said her family’s home previously belonged to the Israeli Embassy. She said she was taught the Shema by her Jewish classmates and attended Passover Seders in their homes. She traveled to Israel with her father as a teenager and worked at a kibbutz. “Somewhere along the way, I think I learned to nail the whole chutzpah thing,” she quipped. 

Sherwood-Randall spoke about her Jewish family roots: the oppression her great-grandparents fled in Eastern Europe, the antisemitism her parents faced in the U.S. and how they taught her to always be “looking for ways to lift up others and heal the world.”

On Tuesday, invitations went out for a Jewish American Heritage Month celebration hosted by President Biden and First Lady Jill Biden at the White House on May 16, according to an invitation shared with the Forward. The timing of the rollout of the administration’s plan will likely coincide with Rice’s departure.

This post was updated.

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