February 28, 2020

Trump Condemns Jersey City Shooting, Signs Executive Order on College Anti-Semitism

WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 11: U.S. President Donald Trump signed an executive order to combat anti semitism during a Hanukkah Reception in the East Room of the White House on December 11, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

During a Dec. 11 Hanukkah reception at the White House, President Donald Trump condemned the Dec. 10 Jersey City, N.J., shooting and signed an executive order addressing anti-Semitism on college campuses.

Trump called the Jersey City assailants evil and praised the valor of the police officer, Det. Joseph Seals, who died after being wounded at a cemetery before the killers fled in a van to a kosher supermarket.

“With one heart, America weeps for the lives lost,” Trump said. “With one voice we vow to crush the monstrous evil of anti-Semitism.”

Trump later turned to the executive order regarding anti-Semitism on college campuses, explaining that it puts anti-Semitism under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act prohibiting discrimination.

“This is our message to universities: If you want to accept the tremendous amount of federal dollars that you get every year, you must reject anti-Semitism. It’s very simple,” Trump said. “My administration will never tolerate the suppression, persecution or silencing of the Jewish people.”

News of the pending executive order first broke on Dec. 10; initial reports stated that the executive order classified Judaism as a religion and a nationality, causing a furor on social media. However, Jewish Insider’s Jacob Kornbluh and Melissa Weiss obtained text of the executive order and reported that the text “makes no such reference.”

Jared Kushner, who is senior adviser to the president and Trump’s son-in-law, disputed in a Dec. 11 New York Times op-ed that the executive order calls Judaism a nationality.

“It merely says that to the extent that Jews are discriminated against for ethnic, racial or national characteristics, they are entitled to protection by the anti-discrimination law,” Kushner wrote. “This new order adopts as its definition of anti-Semitism the language put forth in 2016 by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, while also accounting for other forms of anti-Semitism.”

Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt tweeted that the executive order adopts the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism and “reaffirms the protection of Jews under Title VI without infringing on 1A rights. This is similar to the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act that had bipartisan support in [the] House and Senate in 2016 and that [the] ADL long has supported.”

American Jewish Committee (AJC) CEO David Harris said in a statement that the AJC “welcomes President Trump’s Executive Order to strengthen efforts to combat anti-Semitism on college and university campuses. We trust that a careful application of this directive will enable university administrators to avoid running afoul of free speech protections as they seek to root out anti-Semitism on their campuses.”

StandWithUs Co-Founder and CEO Roz Rothstein similarly said in a statement, “With anti-Semitism on the rise, including on our nation’s campuses, this assurance is crucial. We recognize the vital importance of the IHRA definition, including its recognition that anti-Semitism often takes the form of hostility to Israel. As the ancestral homeland of the Jewish people, Israel is central to the identity of most Jews around the world. We hope that universities will utilize this as an important tool to prevent further discrimination against Jewish students, while maintaining protection of free speech rights for all on campus.”

Zioness, a feminist Zionist group of activists, said in a statement that they must ensure that “any classification of Jews or any other persecuted group does not lead to more of the disgraceful ‘othering’ we have seen from this administration since Day 1. But we must also recognize that the Jewish community, and Jewish students in our nation’s university halls, dorms and quads, must be protected to the full extent of the law.”

The Israeli-American Council (IAC) praised the executive order in a statement as “a courageous step in the battle against the epidemic of anti-Semitic crime and discrimination fueled by the BDS movement and other radical groups.” It also pointed out that at the IAC National Summit from Dec. 5-8 in Florida, Trump brought recent New York University graduate Adela Cojab to discuss how she filed a complaint against her alma mater, New York University, over their handling of anti-Semitism on campus.

Cojab, who is also the northeast coordinator for the Maccabee Task Force, said in a statement to the Journal that she enthusiastically welcomed the executive order because it “ensures there is a system in place to fight discrimination and protect minority populations.”

“I am very much thankful the administration takes the safety of Jewish students seriously,” Cojab added.