NORFOLK, Va. — A commission created by Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin released a report Monday outlining the problem of antisemitism and how state officials can address it.
The report details the history of antisemitism in the United States, recent incidents both nationally and in Virginia, and 21 recommended actions for Youngkin and the Virginia General Assembly.
The findings were the result of the five meetings that the 15-member commission -- chaired by Jeffrey Rosen, the acting U.S. attorney general under President Donald Trump -- held throughout 2022. Youngkin created the commission in one of his first executive actions upon taking office in January.
"Antisemitism is often known as the world’s 'oldest hatred', but it is nonetheless surprising and disturbing that incidents of such hatred and bigotry have been increasing both nationally and in Virginia, as described in the Report," Rosen wrote in the report's foreword.
The commission wrote that antisemitic incidents in the U.S. reached an all-time high in 2021, with 2,717 separate incidents reported. This year, Virginia alone has seen nearly 350 reports of antisemitic acts, according to the report. The report also documents an increase in incidents from 292 in 2020 to 411 in 2021.
The report noted that while many people see these incidents as isolated and on the fringe of society, several incidents over the last decade and recently show otherwise.
"Public figures from the entertainment industry, professional sports, news producers, university professors, and even civil rights activists and public officials from both political parties have made a variety of antisemitic assertions," the commission wrote.
"Even a former president recently met with two notorious antisemites," the commission continued, referring to Trump's recent meeting with rapper Kanye West, who recently made antisemitic comments and expressed praise for Nazi Germany leader Adolf Hitler, and white supremacist Nick Fuentes.
In Virginia, the commission cited several incidents across the state, including antisemitic flyers found in Virginia Beach and Richmond earlier this year and the 2017 "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville that turned violent.
The commission also found that more than 100 cities and towns in Virginia have experienced distribution of antisemitic flyers in their communities since January 2022.
The problem impacts the lives of real people in the Hampton Roads community, as found by Eric Maurer, the executive director of the United Jewish Community of the Virginia Peninsula, recently.
He told 13News Now about reports of flyers distributed in a nearby Newport News neighborhood over the weekend.
"Antisemitism came into our community this past weekend when antisemitic flyers were distributed in a flyer down the road," Maurer said. "When Newport News residents woke up to find this propaganda, there was fear, and it's compounded by the drastic rise in antisemitism we’re seeing across the country."
He added: “It was conspiracies about Jewish people. It was vile and causes harm in our community."
In addressing antisemitism in Virginia, the commission suggested changes to education, law enforcement, and anti-discrimination policies, including:
- Expanding Standards of Learning for teaching the Holocaust and antisemitism in schools, as well as including the study of Judaism in world history.
- Creating curricula for International Holocaust Remembrance Day (January 27) and Jewish American Heritage Month (May), as well as recognizing Jewish religious holidays in schools.
- Prohibiting "partisan political or ideological indoctrination" in classrooms and curricula at state-supported K-12 schools and higher education institutions.
- Clarifying coverage of Jewish Virginians under the state's hate crime and civil rights laws, and expanding hate crime training for all law enforcement.
- A new law requiring law enforcement to collect data on hate crimes and incidents.
- A new law to create a reporting system and database regarding acts of antisemitism in K-12 schools and higher education.
- A new law and executive order affirming support for the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism.