White House to brief Jewish Congress members as it seeks funding for antisemitism strategy


WASHINGTON ((JEWISH REVIEW)) — Top White House officials are meeting with a bipartisan slate of Jewish members of Congress Wednesday as the administration presses for funding for key components of its strategy to combat antisemitism, including efforts on college campuses.

Douglas Emhoff, the Jewish Second Gentleman, who is spearheading implementation of the strategy, will join Neera Tanden, President Joe Biden’s top domestic policy adviser, and Liz Sherwood-Randall, his top homeland security adviser, in a meeting Wednesday with 15-20 Jewish lawmakers from the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate, a White House official told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

These officials and others have been routinely briefing Jewish communal leaders on the implementation of the strategy, which Biden unveiled in May and accelerated in the wake of Hamas’ Oct. 7 massacre in Israel, which launched the war between Israel and the terror group in Gaza. The most recent briefing was on Monday, when many Jewish leaders were in town to attend the White House Hanukkah party.

At the meeting Wednesday, the White House will bring up at least two components of the strategy that require congressional funding that administration insiders have accused Republicans of obstructing in Congress.

“Following the update, they will engage in a discussion about how Congress and the Administration can work together to counter the scourge of antisemitism,” said the official in an email.

One of the issues on the agenda, the official confirmed, is funding for the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights, which handles complaints of bias at federally funded college campuses. Jewish and pro-Israel groups have filed a series of federal complaints alleging that university administrations have not done enough to counter antisemitism on their campuses. Since Oct. 7, the civil rights office has enhanced its efforts to field and address the complaints.

House Republicans have for months sought cuts to the office as they wrestle with the White House to bring down federal spending.

Liberal groups that see the office as a necessary tool to combat bias and discrimination on campuses have pushed back, and their case gained traction in the swirl of antisemitism controversies on campuses since Oct. 7, with Biden administration officials arguing that the office needed to increase its staff to handle the number of complaints.

“Another way to address the scourge of antisemitism on college campuses is to sufficiently fund OCR and the Department of Ed,” Amy Spitalnick, the CEO of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, a national public policy group, said in an interview earlier this week.

“And there have been efforts by Republican elected officials and others to cut funding for OCR at a time when its work is crucial,” said Spitalnick, who is among the Jewish leaders who have consulted with the administration on its antisemitism strategy.

Another White House funding request related to the antisemitism strategy is $200 million in extra funds for nonprofit security grants, which help religious institutions harden themselves against potential attackers. That amount would be added to the $360 million currently appropriated for the program. The White House official said that this too would be on the agenda on Wednesday.

That request is part of a $106 billion emergency funding request that includes more than $14 billion in assistance for Israel as it fights with Hamas and more than $61 billion in assistance for Ukraine as it repels Russia’s invasion. The Republican-led House passed the Israel component, conditioning it on cuts to funding for the Internal Revenue Service, a condition the Senate’s Democratic majority says is unacceptable. Republicans also want intensified restrictions on the Mexico border before they even consider the rest of the package.

There are 24 Jewish Democrats and two Jewish Republicans in the House, and eight Jewish Democrats in the Senate. The two Jewish Republicans, Max Miller of Ohio and David Kustoff of Tennessee, may be key bridges to the House Republican leadership. Miller, notably, told Jewish Insider recently that he was furious with Speaker Mike Johnson of Louisiana, a Republican, for attaching conditions to the Israel funding.

At the meeting with the members of Congress, the White House official said, the Biden team will review its achievements in implementing its antisemitism strategy, including consolidating Education Department protections for victims of religious bigotry; training on identifying antisemitism and Islamophobia across a number of executive agencies; providing training on anti-religious bigotry to students in the agriculture and health sectors; and updating and distributing an FBI hate crimes threat response guide.