SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – As the final blitz of the high-stakes Senate runoff was upon Georgia, Sen. Raphael Warnock, along with numerous colleagues on both sides of the aisle, had something additional in mind — taking action against antisemitism.

In a letter sent to the White House this week, Warnock and colleagues urged President Joe Biden to carry out a unified national strategy to monitor and take action against antisemitism by coordinating across the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice, the Department of Education, the Department of State and other federal agencies and task forces to holistically combat antisemitism in Georgia and the nation. 

“With Jewish communities worldwide facing increasing discrimination, as well as threats and acts of violence, we believe a whole-of-government approach is needed to effectively address the scourge of antisemitism,” the letter stated. “History has taught us that attacks and conspiracy theories that target Jews not only threaten Jews, but frequently grow to threaten the security of other communities and the foundations of democracy.”

Just last month, in a terrorism advisory bulletin, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) raised concerns about potential threats to Jewish communities from violent extremists inside the United States.

Americans motivated by violent ideologies pose a “persistent and lethal threat,” a senior DHS official told reporters in a briefing on the bulletin. 

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, just in the past few years, there have been thousands of anti-Jewish hate crimes in America.

In Georgia, reports of antisemitic incidents in Atlanta have nearly doubled this year, according to the Anti-Defamation League. Recently, antisemitic graffiti was found in Brookhaven and antisemitic incidents have taken place in Cobb County schools. 

“We are thrilled to see the diverse bipartisan group of leaders who recognize the scourge of antisemitism,” said Adam Solender, CEO of the Jewish Education Alliance (JEA) located in Savannah. “Jews represent just 2% of the US population. Jews are the victims of 60% of all religious-based hate crimes.  Broad-based acknowledgment of the threat is a great first step in fighting antisemitism, bigotry, extremism and bias.”

He continued, “The only answer is a multi-prong government inter-agency approach to the issue including awareness, education, creating coalitions with other faith groups, speaking up and speaking out, and addressing bias and hatred wherever it rears its ugly head.”  

The FBI found that antisemitic hate crimes rose by six percent in 2020, representing the highest total in 12 years and constituting 60 percent of all incidents based on religion.

Similarly, nonprofits focused on monitoring and combating antisemitism have also noted record-breaking highs in antisemitic incidents, with 2021 being the highest year on record – an increase of more than a third from 2020.

Organizations like the Jewish Educational Alliance do their part big or small, to combat antisemitism on a hyper-local level.

“The JEA is a very unique institution in Savannah organized in 1912 with the objectives of promoting the English language to new Jewish immigrants, life skill development and to provide a building for education, a library, classes and recreation, including a gymnasium, to the Jewish community,” said Solender.

“The JEA now is home to everyone in Savannah,” he said. “Our membership is as diverse as the very Savannah community that it serves with people being from every race, creed and color. 

“The makeup of those who participate in JEA programs helps build understanding of our differences and similarities.  With Jewish ideas, principles, practices and values, the JEA is a public square for convening people within and among the broader community. Building understanding and knowledge is fundamental to combat antisemitism.”

In addition to Warnock, Sen. Jacky Rosen (D-NV), the head of the Senate Bipartisan Task Force for Combating Antisemitism, and Sens. Jon Ossoff (D-GA), James Lankford (R-OK), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Rob Portman (R-OH), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Mitt Romney (R-UT), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Tim Scott (R-SC), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Susan Collins (R-ME), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Bob Casey (D-PA), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Chirs Van Hollen (D-MD), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Ben Ray Lujan (D-NM), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), John Hickenlooper (D-CO) and Tina Smith (D-MN) signed on to the letter.