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South Florida lawmakers push Congress for commission to study rise in antisemitism

A woman holds a sign saying, "end antisemitism" while attending a March for Israel rally Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2023, on the National Mall in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Jacquelyn Martin/AP
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AP
A woman holds a sign saying, "end antisemitism" while attending a March for Israel rally Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2023, on the National Mall in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Three South Florida lawmakers joined with several other congressional colleagues on Tuesday to introduce a bipartisan bill to establish a “nonpolitical commission to study the facts and causes surrounding the historically high levels of antisemitism facing the Jewish community.”

U.S. Rep. María Elvira Salazar, R-Miami, U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston and U.S. Rep. Jared Moskowitz, D-Parkland, are among a large number co-sponsors of H.R. 6578, "the Commission to Study Acts of Antisemitism in the United States Act." Read the full text of the bill here.

Nationwide, many lawmakers, faith-based groups, and others have sounded the alarm about not only rising antisemitism but increased incidents of Islamophobia across the U.S. and worldwide amid the war in the Gaza Strip between Israel and Hamas militants.

The Anti-Defamation League has recorded a nearly-quadruple spike in antisemitic incidents since the onset of the war, which began Oct. 7.

The Biden administration has also called on universities to fight an “alarming rise” in antisemitism and Islamophobia.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced Wednesday a new guide aimed at helping churches, synagogues, mosques and other houses of worship protect themselves at a time of heightened tensions in faith-based communities across the country.

Last month, FBI Director Christopher Wray, addressing an ADL conference in New York, said antisemitism remains “a pervasive and present fact.”

“Jewish people continue to face repeated violence and very real threats, from all kinds of actors … simply for being who they are," said Wray, who noted that 63% of hate crimes in the U.S. involving religion were driven by antisemitism.

If passed by Congress, the lawmakers view the legislation as a map for law enforcement authorities and others the chance to learn the causes of the hate against Jewish people.

Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar, R-Fla., is among three co-sponsors of bill to explore roots of antisemitism
Rebecca Blackwell/AP
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AP
Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar, R-Fla., is among three co-sponsors of bill to explore roots of antisemitism

“There is no room for antisemitic hatred in the United States,” said Salazar in a statement announcing the commission legislation. “The federal government must respond to the unacceptable rise of antisemitism our Jewish communities face. This bill will give federal, state, and local officials the ability to zero in on the roots of this hatred and crush it.”

Woman speaks during a meeting
Andrew Harnik
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Pool AP
FILE Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., speaks during a House Committee on Oversight and Reform hearing on gun violence on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, June 8, 2022.

The proposed commission would include eight members appointed by Congress and be responsible for overseeing an investigation into antisemitism in the United States.

Said Wasserman Schultz in a statement: “Before Oct. 7th, antisemitism was on a sharp rise, but now we’ve seen it skyrocket, especially online. This bipartisan, bicameral inquiry, which is supported by Jewish civil society leaders and experts, will complement the implementation of President Biden's first-ever National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism and inform key policy decisions in combatting this disturbing trend.”

Sergio Bustos is WLRN's Vice President for News. He's been an editor at the Miami Herald and POLITICO Florida. Most recently, Bustos was Enterprise/Politics Editor for the USA Today Network-Florida’s 18 newsrooms. Reach him at sbustos@wlrnnews.org
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