RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Joined by Jewish faith and community leaders, Gov. Glenn Youngkin hosted an event Monday to ceremonially sign a bill supporters say will help Virginia better track and combat growing instances of antisemitism.
Under the legislation, which will take effect July 1, Virginia will adopt a definition of antisemitism used by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance. The state will use that non-legally binding definition for training and education, and for tracking and reporting antisemitism.
“We can clearly define hate, which is exactly what this bill does. And then we can transform for the good and build a better future,” Youngkin told the audience gathered outside the Executive Mansion in Richmond.
The bill was a recommendation of a commission, chaired by former Acting U.S. Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, that Youngkin created on his first day in office.
Recent data, reports and studies have shown antisemitism is on the rise in the U.S. and showing little sign of abating worldwide.
Earlier this year, a new survey by the American Jewish Committee found that more than 4 in 10 Jews in the United States feel their status is less secure than it was a year earlier.
The definition Virginia is set to adopt says in part that antisemitism is a “certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews” that can have “rhetorical and physical manifestations.” The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, an intergovernmental organization of which the United States is a member, adopted the definition in 2016.
At the time the bill passed, the Combat Antisemitism Movement said Virginia would be the 30th U.S. state to recognize the definition, either through the legislative process or executive order.
The measure ultimately cleared the House and Senate with fairly broad bipartisan support after some Democrats were divided about whether it would actually achieve the sponsors’ stated goals and after some opponents voiced concerns it could lead to allegations of antisemitism against critics of the Israeli government.
Democratic Del. Eileen Filler-Corn, who previously served as the first Jewish speaker of the House, was among the vocal supporters of the measure. Youngkin thanked her in his remarks Monday and expressed disappointment that the measure didn’t pass unanimously.
Youngkin also issued a proclamation recognizing May 2023 as Jewish American Heritage Month and honored Halina Zimm, a Holocaust survivor who was in attendance, in his remarks.
Attorney General Jason Miyares, who took a nine-day trip earlier this year to Israel and Poland, where he visited Auschwitz, was among the other elected officials who spoke at Monday’s event. He referenced “startling” studies that have shown many members of younger generations lack even the most fundamental understanding of the Holocaust.
“It is up to us, the living, to remember the legacy of the past and to remember, indeed, the horrors of what came before us,” Miyares said.
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