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8 Federal Agencies For First Time Declare Civil Rights Act Protects Against Antisemitism

The White House on Thursday took new steps to fight antisemitism, with eight federal agencies officially declaring that an essential civil rights protection outlaws antisemitism amid a rise in hate crimes targeting Jewish people.

Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act outlaws discrimination on the basis of race, color or national origin in any program or activity that gets federal funding. But, for the first time, eight federal agencies put it in writing, explicitly stating that the protections apply to “certain forms of antisemitic, Islamophobic, and related forms of discrimination in federally funded programs and activities.”

“These wide-ranging protections provide important tools to curb discrimination based on shared ancestry or ethnic characteristics and to better protect the civil rights of all Americans,” the administration said in a statement.

President Joe Biden signaled the measure earlier this year, when he announced executive branch actions in his national strategy to counter antisemitism.

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The departments that made the declaration include Agriculture, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, Labor, Treasury, and Transportation.

Staff at those departments will be trained to respond to discrimination and help people file complaints. They will also investigate any issues raised “under Title VI and other civil rights authorities and vigorously enforce protections within federally funded programs and activities they administer,” such as guarding people against harassment on transit systems funded by the Transportation Department, according to the administration’s statement.

Each agency will analyze the ways in which Title VI covers discrimination based on shared ancestry or ethnic characteristics. The Justice Department will also follow up with more information on how the protections apply to individuals of other faith traditions, including Muslim, Sikh, Christian, Hindu and Buddhist.

The fact sheets to be released by each agency will be translated into several languages, including Yiddish, Hebrew, Arabic and Punjabi, to ensure it reaches broad swaths of the population.

The announcement builds on the rollout of Biden’s May 2023 national strategy for combatting antisemitism, including more than 100 steps the White House planned to address this type of hate.

“History teaches that hate never fully goes away; it only hides until it is given just a little oxygen,” Biden said at the time. “That is why we must confront antisemitism early and aggressively whenever and wherever it emerges from the darkness.”

While Jewish Americans represent just under 3% of the U.S. population, they are disproportionately targeted for hate crimes.

Last year, the Anti-Defamation League reported nearly 3,700 antisemitic attacks in the U.S., a 36% increase from 2021 and the most since ADL started its tracking reports in 1979.

CORRECTION: This story incorrectly identified one of the languages that new fact sheets will be translated into. They will be translated into Yiddish, Hebrew, Arabic, Punjabi and other languages, according to the White House.