Rabbis Press Dem Leader Schumer To Pass Bills To Combat Anti-Semitism

Rabbis also take issue with Schumer’s comments attacking Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (Getty Images)
June 17, 2024

A coalition of rabbis is pressuring Democratic Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer (N.Y.) to pass three pieces of legislation meant to combat surging anti-Semitism in America, saying the Senate leader must make good on his promises to protect American Jews.

"You have often referred to yourself as a ‘Shomer,’ Hebrew for ‘guardian’ or ‘watchman,’ describing your role as encompassing protecting the interests of Israel and the Jewish people," the Coalition for Jewish Values, a group comprised of 2,500 Orthodox rabbis, wrote in a letter sent last week to Schumer and obtained by the Washington Free Beacon. "You have even claimed that this Hebrew word is the origin of your last name. With this in mind, we write to convey our urgent request that you place three key pieces of legislation, all intended to combat antisemitism, on the legislative agenda for the U.S. Senate."

The rabbis take issue with Schumer’s recent comments attacking Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu and alleging that Israel is not doing enough to protect Palestinian civilians in the embattled Gaza Strip. Schumer has called for Netanyahu to be stripped of power, drawing allegations of foreign election influence, and advocated for increased diplomatic pressure on the Jewish state as it faces down Hamas militants along its southern border and Hezbollah fighters along its northern border with Lebanon.

"We have not forgotten that in a speech before the Senate earlier this year, one in which you vocally adopted the mantle of Shomer, you claimed that Benjamin Netanyahu was somehow comparable to [Palestinian Authority president] Mahmoud Abbas, that Israel was failing in its ‘moral obligation’ as it rewrites the book on avoiding the very civilian casualties that Hamas pursues as cynical strategy, and even accused Israel of sharing culpability in the results of the atrocities and war crimes committed by Hamas," the rabbis wrote. "To say that we were disappointed is understatement, but, as rabbis, we believe in repentance and redemption."

Schumer, the religious leaders say, must fast track three pieces of legislation that are currently waiting for approval by the Senate.

This includes the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act, which passed the House in early May. The measure would require the Education Department to employ the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of anti-Semitism, seen by most as the gold standard, when it is investigating anti-Jewish incidents that violate Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. A number of America’s top colleges are currently facing Education Department probes for allowing unchecked anti-Semitism to percolate on their campuses.

The second piece of legislation, the Countering Anti-Semitism Act, already has bipartisan backing in the Senate and would establish in the White House a national coordinator to counter anti-Semitism. This official would be responsible for advising the president on these issues and coordinating federal efforts to stem Jew hatred in America.

The third bill, the Illegitimate Court Counteraction Act, passed the House in early June and is awaiting Senate approval. The legislation would sanction any foreign official who attempts to prosecute Israeli and American leaders for alleged war crimes. The bill is a response to the International Criminal Court’s recent bid to prosecute Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders on trumped up claims of war crimes related to the country’s war against Hamas.

"We are confident that Senators will see fit to pass all three of these critical Acts, if given the opportunity to vote upon them," the rabbinic group wrote. "As the government official tasked with scheduling items onto the agenda for deliberation in the Senate, you are in a unique position to ensure these three bills receive their due consideration, and for the U.S. Government to take concrete action to fight antisemitism."