Biden officials meet with Jewish leaders to discuss rise in antisemitism

WASHINGTON — Biden administration officials met Monday with top Jewish leaders at the White House to discuss the rise in antisemitism, a meeting participant said.

Amy Spitalnick, the CEO of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, confirmed that she joined a meeting that included the White House coordinator for the Middle East, Brett McGurk, Homeland Security adviser Liz Sherwood-Randall and Deborah Lipstadt, the special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism.

Second gentleman Doug Emhoff also spoke at the meeting, Spitalnick said.

“The administration has been incredibly responsive and engaged,” Spitalnick said in a statement. “At a time of increasingly normalized antisemitism and hate — that threatens our communities and our democracy — it matters that we have a President and an administration who understand the urgency of this threat and are advancing a historic strategy to address it.”

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the meeting, which was first reported by CNN.

President Joe Biden on Monday touted his administration’s efforts to implement a national strategy to combat antisemitism that was first announced in May.

“Prosecuting hate, prosecuting hate crimes, addressing antisemitism in schools, increasing security around Jewish centers of life and more,” Biden said of the effort at a Hanukkah reception at the White House.

“We’re calling upon all Americans and make clear there is no place for hate in America against Jews, Muslims or anybody else.”

Antisemitic incidents in the U.S. climbed 388% in the weeks after the Hamas terrorist attacks in Israel on Oct. 7, compared to the same period last year, according to the Anti-Defamation League, a group focused on fighting antisemitism and extremism.

The attacks killed about 1,200 people in Israel. In the aftermath, more than 18,000 people have been killed in Gaza, according to local health officials.

The meeting Monday followed an uproar over congressional testimony last week from the presidents of top-tier universities about whether “calling for the genocide of Jews” would violate their schools’ codes of conduct. University of Pennsylvania President Liz Magill resigned Saturday following the backlash, which included criticism from the White House.

“It’s unbelievable that this needs to be said: Calls for genocide are monstrous and antithetical to everything we represent as a country,” White House spokesman Andrew Bates said in a statement after the testimony.

Biden has increased outreach efforts in recent months to both Jewish and Muslim communities, which have faced growing threats amid the Israel-Hamas war.

NBC News reported in October that Biden quietly hosted a meeting with a handful of Muslim leaders as he sought to address ongoing criticism from the Arab American community over his handling of Palestinian civilian deaths and increased domestic threats to Muslim Americans since the war began.

Tara Prindiville reported from Washington and Zoë Richards from New York.