On Thursday, at the U.S. Capitol building, the Combat Antisemitism Movement (CAM) hosted a breakfast for U.S. Senators, Representatives, and their staff to acknowledge Jewish American Heritage Month (JAHM).
Fourteen senators and representatives gave remarks, and more than a dozen other congressional offices were represented from both sides of the aisle. They united to celebrate Jewish contributions to society, and rebuke the rise in antisemitism.
Referring to an increase in antisemitic activity, Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) told those seated at the breakfast, “No matter where it’s coming from, on the left or the right, or from people who are not politically affiliated at all, it’s on the rise. It’s on social media, it’s in conversation and dialogue, and we scratch our heads and go, ‘Why should this be?’ Especially in a nation like ours that prides itself on being a place where all people from all over of all faiths or no faiths are welcomed into our culture or into society.” Lankford is the co-chair of the Senate and House Bipartisan Task Forces for Combating Antisemitism
“From medicine and entertainment, to fighting for civil rights and equality, we have helped shape America from its inception, and even prior to its inception, and have helped shape us to continue to achieve the goal of a more perfect union,” said Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL).
“I will be frank,” Schultz added, “Many, many of my colleagues come to Congress who don’t represent a single Jewish person in their district. Or if they do, they are totally unaware of it, or those Jewish families don’t really publicly acknowledge that they’re Jewish. So there is a dearth of understanding, that we are a rich heritage, religion, and culture, and that we have led in this country proudly for so many generations.”
“I want to thank the Combat Antisemitism Movement for your work to convene timely and impactful events to celebrate Jewish American Heritage Month and bring together communities in the fight against antisemitism,” Schultz went on to say. “Celebrating, educating, and coming together in this manner helps promote understanding and unity, and reduces antisemitism and bigotry, which is the purpose of having a month-long celebration of Jewish contributions.” Though JAHM was only first officially recognized in 2006, Schultz observed that Jewish life in America has existed for more than 350 years, and that most Americans are unaware of this.
“I think of antisemitism as a form of tribalism — it’s vile, it’s repulsive,” said Rep. Neal Dunn (R-FL). “I pray that moving forward we will never have to have these conversations about antisemitism, and we can talk instead about what we can do to make the world a better place for our children.”
In addition to a panel on security challenges of modern-day antisemitism that addressed active threat monitoring and comprehensive data gathering, CAM also conducted a panel on the importance of implementing the IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism.
“My grandparents came to this country escaping the bombs of Europe, not unlike many people in our community,” Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) told the crowd at his turn to speak. “And they worked very hard to build a business that helped the community. Now their grandson serves in the United States Senate.”
“We should never forget how great this country has been to the Jewish community,” Cardin emphasized. “But we also have to acknowledge that we are still on a journey, and in recent years, the rise of antisemitism has been shocking… We dedicate ourselves on this Jewish American Heritage Month to make sure “Never Again” means “Never again.”
Sen. Roger Marshall (R-KS), Sen. Pete Ricketts (R-NE), Rep. Troy Carter (D-LA), Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ), Rep. Tom Keane (R-NJ), Rep. Mike Lawler (R-NY), Rep. Tracey Mann (R-KS), Rep. Marc Veasey (D-TX), Rep. Randy Weber (R-TX), and Rep. Brandon Williams (R-NY) also spoke at the breakfast.
“This eternal evil that is as old as humanity, is there any way to beat this?” asked Elan Carr, an Advisory Board Member of CAM referring to the rise in Jew hatred less than eight decades after the horrors of the Holocaust. “Can you ever win a war playing defense only?” Carr also asked, while emphasizing that the best way to combat a worldview “that is a spiritual sickness” is to go on offense. “Jewish American Heritage Month is all about proactively, and affirmatively, and aggressively driving a philosemitic narrative. Philosemitism is the offensive weapon against antisemitism. It means understanding, appreciating, having an affection for the remarkable, breathtaking Biblical story of the Jewish people, and the values of Judaism…and the stories and the values which have immeasurably altered the very character of civilization around the world.”
Carr added that it’s time to “double down on the Jewish story, and on Jewish heritage, and on Jewish contributions to the fabric, the very DNA, of the United States of America.”
CAM hosted this breakfast in partnership with Jewish Federations of North America, Secure Community Network, B’nai B’rith International, JCRC of Greater Washington, The Brandeis Center, National Coalition Supporting Eurasian Jewry, Jewish War Veterans of the USA, Weitzman National Museum of American Jewish History, and the Foundation to Combat Antisemitism.
Earlier on Thursday, the Republican Governors Association — on behalf of all 26 Republican governors — also released a joint statement recognizing Jewish American Heritage Month in their respective states. The statement called for an observative “to celebrate the historical, economic, and cultural impact of the Jewish-American people who have strengthened our communities and emboldened our nation throughout history.”
The Combat Antisemitism Movement (CAM) is a global coalition engaging more than 700 partner organizations and nearly two million people from a diverse array of religious, political, and cultural backgrounds in the common mission of fighting the world’s oldest hatred. CAM acts collaboratively to build a better future, free of bigotry, for Jews and all humanity.