U.S. senator states it’s his “moral obligation” to speak out against anti-Semitism.
By Sen. Gary Peters
In his letter to the members of the Touro Synagogue in 1790, President George Washington affirmed to the American Jewish community the government of the United States would give “to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance.” For more than two centuries, those words have stood as a guiding light to those in public service who wish to eradicate the millennia-old prejudice of anti-Semitism from our shores.
In recent years, the world’s oldest hatred has sadly emerged from the darkest corners of America. The Jewish-American community has been faced with the sobering realization that its synagogues are under threat and anti-Semitism has once again been normalized. Anti-Semitism knows no ideological boundaries. It manifests itself across the political spectrum, whether it is targeted violence, hateful rhetoric and intolerance, or the indifference and apathy of those who do not see anti-Semitism as their problem to fight.
That is why, as your U.S. senator, I believe it is my moral obligation to speak out against anti-Semitism and to build consensus around the actions that must be taken to strengthen and defend the Jewish community. Following the worst attack on the Jewish community in our nation’s history, I had the honor to join Shabbat services at Temple Israel in West Bloomfield. Together we mourned, and together we sought solace and solidarity to continue taking action to defeat this hateful ideology and the violence it has inspired in our communities.
I have always found it important to add my voice to those who seek to create unity in the face of division, which is why I joined my colleagues on the Senate Bipartisan Task Force for Combating Anti-Semitism — a group united in our efforts to call out hate, support legislation to combat anti-Semitism and educate Americans about the dangers of this abhorrent ideology.
In 2017, following a surge in threats against Jewish communities in Michigan and across the country, I partnered with Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) to lead all 100 senators in a rare display of unity by authoring a letter asking the Trump Administration to investigate and take action to address anti-Semitism and secure our communities against these pervasive threats.
As ranking member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, I convened the committee’s first hearing on white supremacist violence, which included powerful testimony from the Anti-Defamation League. This past year — as threats against synagogues and religious institutions continue to rise — I led a bipartisan effort with Sen. Portman to help secure houses of worship against these deadly attacks. Just last month, President Trump signed our bill into law, providing $75 million in federal funds to faith-based organizations across the country.
If the massacre at Tree of Life Synagogue shocked us, the events that followed in Poway, New Jersey and New York have served as a stark reminder that Americans live in a country where these attacks cannot be dismissed as isolated incidents. More work must be done to help us secure Jewish community spaces, and more work must be done to expel the darkness caused by a rising cloud of anti-Semitism.
We recently observed the 75th Anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz and International Holocaust Memorial Day. The lasting lesson of one of history’s darkest chapters is that it is incumbent on each generation to educate the next on the repercussions of anti-Semitism. I feel strongly that this burden falls not only on Jewish Americans, but those of us who consider ourselves allies in the fight against hate.
As your senator and, more importantly, as your fellow citizen, you can be sure that I am committed to continue dedicating myself to this cause, and I will never stop striving to ensure that the United States fulfills its longstanding promise to Jewish Americans to give “to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance.”
Gary Peters is a U.S. senator from Michigan.