WASHINGTON — The White House hosted Jewish leaders Wednesday to discuss what the Jewish husband of Vice President Kamala Harris called an epidemic of anti-Semitism in the United States.
Douglas Emhoff, whose official title is second gentleman, headlined the roundtable for a range of Jewish community leaders. With Harris the first woman ever in the vice presidency, Emhoff is not only the first man to be in the spousal role, but also the first Jew.
"Our community is in pain," he said, referring to a spate of anti-Semitic incidents around the country and also the high-profile association between former president Donald Trump and outspoken antisemite Ye -- the rapper previously known as Kanye West.
Trump, Ye and the notorious white nationalist Nick Fuentes recently had dinner together at the former Republican president's Florida golf club.
"There's an epidemic of hate facing our country," Emhoff said. "People are no longer saying the quiet parts out loud. They are literally screaming them."
"I will not remain silent. I am proud to be Jewish. I'm proud to live openly as a Jew. I am not afraid. I refuse to be afraid," Emhoff said.
According to the ADL, or Anti-Defamation League, there were 2,717 anti-Semitic incidents in the United States in 2021 -- a 34 percent increase over the previous year and the highest number recorded since the organization began monitoring in 1979.
One of the advocacy groups that took part in the roundtable, the American Jewish Committee and its president Ted Deutch, called for the creation of a task force with the mission of devising a national action plan to combat anti-Semitism.
"By convening this roundtable, the Biden Administration demonstrated its recognition of the severity of the problem and its commitment to taking the necessary steps to more effectively confront this hatred," the committee said in a statement.
© Agence France-Presse