ICYMI: Eshoo Remarks at Press Conference on Rise of Antisemitism in California

September 12, 2022
Press Release

PALO ALTO, CA – Yesterday Congresswoman Anna G. Eshoo (CA-18) delivered the following remarks at the Jewish Community Relations Council’s (JCRC) Here I Am: Communities United Against Antisemitism press conference at the Oshman Family Jewish Community Center:

Over the past several years, there’s been a surge of antisemitism in our country. Shame on us. Shame on us.

This threatens the safety of synagogues and community centers. It has a chilling effect on expressions of Jewish identity, and it challenges our own fundamental values as a free and tolerant society. These are the things we are the proudest of as Americans.

This disturbing trend has manifested in horrific acts of violence, including the 2018 killing of eleven worshipers at Shabbat services at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh – the deadliest antisemitic attack in our nation’s history – so it wasn’t decades and decades ago. It’s not part of a dark past. It’s part of our very recent history in our country. And as well as more recent tragedies in Poway, California; Jersey City, New Jersey; and Colleyville, Texas.

While these violent acts are the most heinous expressions of antisemitism, they represent a small fraction of the thousands of antisemitic incidents that American Jews are being subjected to.

The Anti-Defamation League recorded over 2,700 antisemitic incidents in 2021 – a 34 percent increase over 2020 and the highest number ever recorded, this is major. This is taking place every day in California and across our country.

Sadly California has not been spared of this disturbing national trend.

Because of the critical work of Attorney General Bonta and the California Department of Justice, thank you for being here in person, we now have comprehensive data showing that antisemitic incidents in our state rose by 32 percent last year. Facts and figures are very important to underscore the case as we make it to the larger community.

Behind each of these statistics are real people. We can never forget that. You read the statistics and sometimes they’re dizzying, they’re frustrating.

That is why I’m so grateful for JCRC’s “Here I Am” initiative, which tells the stories of Jews in the Bay Area who have experienced antisemitism.

If you haven’t already, I encourage you to visit HereIAmStories.org to access powerful videos and other resources that illustrate how antisemitism harms so many of our friends and neighbors.

So what are we doing in Congress?

Very recently I joined over 90 colleagues in writing to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas to urge the Administration to adopt a whole-of-government strategy to combat antisemitism and protect Jewish communities from hate-fueled violence.

I worked successfully with the House Appropriations Committee for funding for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program. This is really an important program because this funding goes right to provide grants to enhance security at synagogues, community centers, and other vulnerable institutions.

I voted for and Congress passed appropriations legislation earlier this year in March that increased funding for this critical program by $70 million, an increase of 39 percent. Very few efforts get a 39 percent increase. But it underscores the seriousness of what this is all about.

And I made sure I wrote to every synagogue in my congressional district to assist them and back up these grants for whatever their needs are. 

I’m also proud to have cosponsored and voted for the Jabara-Heyer NO HATE Act, which President Biden signed into law last year.

This legislation provides new grant funding to enable states and local governments to better monitor and prevent hate crimes, including antisemitic acts.

I can go through a long list, I think I’ve spoken maybe long enough. But let me just say this: These are important legislative accomplishments, we have to keep building on them. We can never be satisfied with what we’ve already done and not keep the pedal to the metal.

Anyone in this region who is even thinking of a hateful act, whose heart might be filled with hate, we stretch our arms and hearts out to you. But if you continue doing what you have done, we’re here to say you’re going to be stopped and you’re going to be held accountable by law enforcement.

In 1790, then-President George Washington articulated this promise in his famous letter to a Rhode Island synagogue.

He wrote that the U.S. government “gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance” and “requires only that they who live under its protection should [conduct] themselves as good citizens.”

With the values from the birth of our nation, the best of us, we all say, “here I am.”