Jewish Groups Boycott Biden Meeting Over Far-Left Inclusion

Several prominent Jewish organizations boycotted a meeting with Biden administration officials over the inclusion of far-left groups opposed to the IHRA definition of antisemitism. The boycotted meeting was rescheduled, and a separate discussion on campus antisemitism took place with a smaller group of organizations.

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Jewish Groups Boycott Biden Meeting Over Far-Left Inclusion

Jewish Groups Boycott Biden Meeting Over Far-Left Inclusion

On Friday, several prominent Jewish organizations pulled out of a scheduled meeting with two top Biden administration officials, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona and White House Domestic Policy Council Director Neera Tanden, over the inclusion of far-left groups opposed to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance's (IHRA) definition of antisemitism.

Why this matters: The boycott highlights the deepening divisions within the American Jewish community over Israel and the fight against antisemitism, which could have significant implications for the community's ability to present a united front against rising antisemitism.

At least six major Jewish groups boycotted the meeting, including the Jewish Federations of North America, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, the Orthodox Union, the Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, and Hillel International. The organizations were upset over the "last-minute" addition of groups like T'ruah, Nexus Leadership Project, Bend the Arc, and Diaspora Alliance, which one representative described as "pretty anti-Israel."

The IHRA definition deems it antisemitic to criticize Jewish people for the actions of Israel and claim that the existence of Israel is a racist endeavor. The boycotting groups felt they were not aligned on key issues with the added participants. "When we found out who they were, we said, 'You know, we had requested this meeting and this is really last minute and we're not aligned on some key issues with some of these groups," a participant who dropped off the call explained.

The Biden administration officials agreed to hold a separate meeting with the boycotting groups at 1 p.m. Despite the boycott, the originally scheduled roundtable discussion on campus antisemitism still took place with a smaller group of organizations, including centrist groups like the Reform movement, American Jewish Committee, and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, as well as Agudath Israel, an Orthodox advocacy group.

The meeting focused on increasing funding for the Education Department's civil rights office, which investigates reports of antisemitic discrimination on college campuses. The department currently has dozens of open investigations into complaints of antisemitism at universities, but underfunding means each investigator is forced to handle up to 50 cases, leading to delays of many months or years to resolve.

The boycotting organizations released a joint statement that did not address the controversy, instead focusing on the issue of anti-Israel protests on college campuses and thanking Secretary Cardona for meeting with them. However, progressive groups expressed disappointment at the boycott. "It would have been great to see some of those groups who boycotted stand next to groups like ours who are dedicated to fighting antisemitism with practical measures," said Kevin Rachlin, director of the Nexus Leadership Project.

Key Takeaways

  • 6 major Jewish groups boycott meeting with Biden officials over inclusion of far-left groups opposed to IHRA definition of antisemitism.
  • Boycotting groups felt added participants were "pretty anti-Israel" and not aligned on key issues.
  • Biden officials agree to hold separate meeting with boycotting groups.
  • Original meeting focuses on increasing funding for Education Department's civil rights office to investigate campus antisemitism.
  • Boycott highlights deepening divisions within American Jewish community over Israel and antisemitism.