For American Jews, Biden’s Speech on Antisemitism Offers Recognition and Healing

President Biden, standing in front of six candles symbolizing the six million Jews killed during the Holocaust, delivered on Tuesday the strongest condemnation of antisemitism by any sitting American president.

For Jews monitoring a spike in hate crimes and instances of antisemitic rhetoric amid pro-Palestinian protests on college campuses, Mr. Biden’s speech at a Holocaust remembrance ceremony at the Capitol was both fiercely necessary and fiercely appreciated. The Anti-Defamation League, which has been tracking antisemitic incidents since the 1970s, says the number of such episodes has reached all-time highs in four of the last five years.

“In an unprecedented moment of rising antisemitism, he gave a speech that no modern president has needed to,” said Jonathan Greenblatt, the chief executive of the Anti-Defamation League. “There has not been a moment like this since before the founding of the state of Israel. We have said it will never get worse, but then it has.”

Still, if the president thought he might change minds with his emotional and deeply personal speech — recalling his father’s discussions about the Holocaust at the dinner table and taking his grandchildren to former concentration camps — there were few signs he had caused many to reconsider their views. Instead, initial reactions fell along ideological lines.

Republicans dismissed his comments as meek, while supporters of Palestinians on the left attacked him for conflating criticism of Israel with antisemitism.

Warren David, the co-founder of the Arab America Foundation, an advocacy group, said it was disappointing that Mr. Biden has not spoken more forcefully against anti-Arab racism and the death toll in Gaza.

Back to top button