House Members Send Letter to Secretary Blinken On Antisemitism Definitions

The Honorable Antony Blinken Secretary of State

U.S. Department of State Washington, DC 20520

Dear Secretary Blinken:

May 27, 2021

We write to thank you and the entire Biden Administration for your commitment to fighting against the rising threat of antisemitism, both globally, and here in the United States. We applaud your prioritization of combating this ancient hatred. In carrying out this critical work, we urge you to consider multiple definitions of antisemitism, including two new definitions that have been formulated and embraced by the Jewish community.

In 2016, the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), of which the United States is a member, adopted a non-legally binding definition of antisemitism. The Department of State began using this working definition at this time. In September of 2018, the Trump Administration announced that it was expanding the use of the IHRA definition to the Department of Education. This was followed by the 2019 “White House Executive Order on Combating Antisemitism” that formally directed federal agencies to consider the IHRA working definition and contemporary examples of antisemitism in enforcing Title VI of the Civil Rights Act.

While the IHRA definition can be informative, in order to most effectively combat antisemitism, we should use all of the best tools at our disposal. Recently, two new definitions have been introduced that can and should be equally considered by the State Department and the entire Administration. The first is the Nexus Document, drafted by the Nexus Task Force, which examines the issues at the nexus of antisemitism and Israel in American politics. The Task Force is a project of the Knight Program on Media and Religion at the Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism at USC. The definition is designed as a guide for policymakers and community leaders as they grapple with the complexities at the intersection of Israel and antisemitism.

Another valuable resource is the recently released Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism (JDA). The JDA is a tool to identify, confront and raise awareness about antisemitism as it manifests in countries around the world today. It includes a preamble, definition, and a set of 15 guidelines that provide detailed guidance for those seeking to recognize antisemitism in order to craft responses. It was developed by a group of scholars in the fields of Holocaust history, Jewish studies, and Middle East studies to meet what has become a growing challenge: providing clear guidance to identify and fight antisemitism while protecting free expression.

These two efforts are the work of hundreds of scholars and experts in the fields of antisemitism, Israel and Middle East Policy, and Jewish communal affairs, and have been helpful to us as we grapple with these complex issues. While each of the available definitions have their own strengths and weaknesses, and hence the signatories below do not endorse every part of each one, we believe the Administration should consider all three important documents as resources to help guide its thinking and actions when addressing issues of combating antisemitism.

Once again, we thank you and President Biden for prioritizing this important matter and urge you to use all tools at your disposal to combat the threat of antisemitism.


Jan Schakowsky, Andy Levin, Mark Pocan, Pramila Jayapal, and Jamie Raskin
Members of Congress


Earl Blumenauer, André Carson, Sean Casten, Joaquin Castro, David N. Cicilline, Steve Cohen, Jim Cooper, Mark DeSaulnier, Veronica Escobar, Dwight Evans, Raúl M. Grijalva, Bill Johnson, Mondaire Jones, Kaialii Kahele, Ro Khanna, Alan Lowenthal, Betty McCollum, James P. McGovern, Jerrold Nadler, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley, David E. Price, Adam Schiff, Jackie Speier, Eric Swalwell, Mark Takano, Dana Titus, Nydia Velázquez, Bonnie Watson Coleman, Peter Welch, John Yarmuth