A commission to combat antisemitism ordered by Governor Glenn Youngkin published its report Monday, describing a rising amount of antisemitic incidents nationally and in Virginia and recommending 21 steps the governor and the General Assembly could take.
“In recent years, Virginia has had fewer incidents than neighbors in Maryland and DC, but the national trend of increasing antisemitic incidents has not spared Virginia, and some of the most high–profile antisemitic incidents in recent history have occurred in the Commonwealth. Generally, while the Commonwealth has not seen antisemitic assaults take place since 2018, there has been an increased frequency of antisemitic harassment and antisemitic vandalism at levels which have remained constant from 2018 to 2021,” the report states.
Many of the antisemitic incidents in Virginia included the distribution of racist propaganda.
“Since January 2022, over 100 separate towns and cities in Virginia have experienced distributions of antisemitic flyers. These flyers have similar antisemitic messaging alleging Jewish allegiances to communist governments, Jews as racially inferior and/or claiming Jews exert control over various governmental institutions,” the report states.
Youngkin ordered the commission the day he was inaugurated, citing a record number of antisemitic incidents in Virginia in 2020. He convened the commission in May, chaired by former Trump acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen. Other commission members include Virginia Holocaust Museum Executive Director Samuel Asher, and Gross Family Center for the Study of Antisemitism advisory board member Julie Strauss Levin, the wife of conservative radio host Mark Levin. Members of Youngkin’s administration including Attorney General Jason Miyares, Secretary of Education Aimee Guidera, and Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Robert Mosier participated as ex-oficio members.
Arguing that antisemitism isn’t an isolated problem, the report includes a veiled reference to former President Donald Trump’s recent meeting with Nick Fuentes and Kanye West: “Public figures from the entertainment industry, professional sports, news producers, university professors, and even civil rights activists and public officials from both political parties have made a variety of antisemitic assertions. Even a former president recently met with two notorious antisemites.”
The report says that antisemitism is sometimes disguised as anti-Zionism: “On college campuses and in the halls of Congress, antisemitic smears and tropes are regularly rolled out, often with the pretense that they are mere criticisms of ‘Zionists,’ whether made by adherents of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) hate movement or others.”
The report also emphasizes the frequency of antisemitic incidents on school campuses and notes that there is declining awareness of antisemitism and the holocaust, citing a 2020 Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany survey that found that 63 percent of millennials and Generation Z Americans didn’t know that six million Jews were killed in the Holocaust.
The commission’s report includes 21 recommendations that Youngkin’s administration can enact or ask legislators to pass in the upcoming General Assembly session. They include requiring law enforcement to conduct hate crime training and to report data on hate crimes, clarifying hate crime language in Virginia law, preparing police departments to proactively police around places of worship during religious holy days, and using youth intervention programs to mitigate radicalization. Additionally, the report recommends that the OAG create a related task force.
Other recommendations focus on education, including expanding the History and Social Sciences Standards of Learning to include a more thorough treatment of antisemitism, the Nazi Party, and the Holocaust. It also recommends World History I students be required to study ancient Israel and the spread of Judaism. The State Council of Higher Education could ask law schools to develop courses on antisemitism and the law. K-12 schools could be required to recognize Jewish holidays. The General Assembly could also pass a ban on indoctrination in schools.
“The Commission recommends that the General Assembly pass legislation prohibiting partisan political or ideological indoctrination in classrooms and curricula at state–supported K–12 schools and higher education institutions. In instances in Virginia and elsewhere, political advocacy in the classroom has been associated with subsequent antisemitic actions,” the report states.
The report also includes some anti-discrimination recommendations, including a ban on public entities following BDS policies and coordinating interfaith dialogue between religious communities.
“During Governor Youngkin’s first year in office, I have respected his desire to oppose divisiveness in varied forms and instead find moments to bring people together to make Virginia a better place,” Rosen said in a Youngkin press release. “This is one of those moments, and it is my hope that the work of our 15-member Commission speaks through this report.”
Youngkin said, “Hatred, intolerance, and antisemitism have no place in Virginia and I appreciate the committee’s hard work to highlight and grapple with these matters. We have challenges in Virginia and we must work together to address them. For Virginia to be the best place to live, work, and raise a family, the Commonwealth must welcome people of all faiths, ethnicities, and backgrounds with open arms.”
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