Under the leadership of the American Jewish Committee (AJC) and the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas’ Jewish Community Relations Council (Dallas JCRC), over 50 synagogues, Jewish communal organizations, rabbis and mayors have signed a statement in support of HB 3257, a bipartisan bill that would establish a Texas State Commission on Antisemitism and codify the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) Working Definition of Antisemitism for the state.
In January 2020, on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Gov. Greg Abbott spoke at the Capitol to a group comprising regional board members from AJC Dallas and Houston, a diverse group of coalition partners and consular representatives from across Texas. In his remarks, Gov. Abbott pledged that Texas would adopt the working definition of antisemitism in the next legislative session.
The Dallas JCRC hosted a meeting in June 2020 between Gov. Abbott and all the Texas Jewish Federations which featured discussion about the rising incidence of antisemitism and the importance of education about and enforcement against antisemitism and all hate crimes. The governor committed to ensuring that Texas remains a leader and national role model in fighting antisemitism.
The AJC State of Antisemitism in America 2020 report revealed that 88% of American Jews believe that antisemitism in the U.S. today is a very serious (37%) or somewhat of a (51%) problem, and 82% say that antisemitism has increased over the past five years. Another stark finding of the survey was that nearly half of the general population reported either having never heard the term antisemitism (21%) or having heard the term, but remaining unsure of its meaning (25%). Clearly defining the term is a demonstrably critical need addressed by this legislation.
The introduction of HB 3257 was led by Representatives Phil King (R-Weatherford) and Craig Goldman (R-Fort Worth). Joint authors include Speaker Pro Tem Joe Moody (D-El Paso), Ana Hernandez (D-Houston), Mayes Middleton (R-Galveston) and Tan Parker (R-Flower Mound).
The commission’s mandate would include a study of antisemitism in Texas to be conducted every other year, with results reported to the governor, lieutenant governor, speaker of the House and each member of the legislature. The commission would also advise and assist public and private primary and secondary schools and institutions of higher education on combating antisemitism.
In recent committee testimony in support of the bill, AJC Houston Regional Director Randy Czarlinsky noted, “Twenty-nine countries around the world have adopted the working definition of antisemitism… The United States also makes use of the definition at the Federal level: the Department of State uses the definition in its International Religious Freedom Report and the Department of Education uses it when determining Title VI discrimination against Jewish students.”
The Dallas JCRC, which coordinates legislative efforts for Jewish communities across the state, worked in tandem with AJC throughout these efforts, both in communication with legislative staff and in bringing other Federations and community partners on board.
Dallas JCRC Chair Cindy Moskowitz noted, “Coming on the heels of our recent Dallas JCRC’s Jewish Communities Day at the State program, supporting this bill is another opportunity to show unified Jewish community support and further strengthen relationships with our state legislators. We hope that our support from across the state can advance this important measure to combat antisemitism in Texas.”
In addition to Jewish leaders and organizations, Texas mayors who have signed the AJC-U.S. Conference of Mayors statement “Mayors United Against Antisemitism” were also invited to lend their names to the letter of support. Mayors Sylvester Turner of Houston and Ron Nirenberg of San Antonio are among the signatories.
To view the letter that was submitted to committee members and legislators, including a full list of signatories, please visit: https://bit.ly/3n2jrbt.