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As Trump Plans To Sign Executive Order Interpreting Judaism As A Nationality, We Discuss Implications For Jewish Identity




US President Donald Trump addresses the Israeli American Council National Summit 2019 at the Diplomat Beach Resort in Hollywood, Florida on December 7, 2019.
US President Donald Trump addresses the Israeli American Council National Summit 2019 at the Diplomat Beach Resort in Hollywood, Florida on December 7, 2019.
MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images

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President Donald Trump will sign an executive order on Wednesday targeting antisemitism on college campuses, the White House said.

The order, which is likely to draw criticism from free speech advocates, will broaden the federal government’s definition of antisemitism and instruct it to be used in enforcing laws against discrimination on college campuses, according to three U.S. officials. 

In the order, Trump is expected to tell the Department of Education to consider the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of anti-Semitism — which can include criticism of Israel — when evaluating discrimination complaints under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act.

Title VI bars discrimination on the basis of race, color and national origin at colleges and universities that receive federal funding. One official said Trump’s order would make it clear that Title VI will apply to anti-Semitism as defined by the IHRA. That definition says antisemitism may include “targeting of the state of Israel.”

Previous attempts to clarify and codify the application of Title VI to anti-Semitic acts have become bogged down in debates over whether Judaism should be seen as race or is indicative of a national origin. Free-speech advocates have also expressed concerns that a broader definition of anti-Semitism might be used to limit criticism of Israeli government actions.

We discuss the planned move as well as its larger significance. If you identify as Jewish, how do you define your identity -- does it hinge on culture? Ties to Israel? Religion? Ethnicity? What are the implications of this policy change and how might it reverberate in different Jewish communities? We welcome your calls at 866-893-5722.

With files from The Associated Press

Guests:

David Lehrer, president of Community Advocates, Inc., a nonprofit organization looking at race relations; former Los Angeles regional director of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) for 27 years; he tweets @dlehrer

Talya Zax, deputy culture editor of the Forward, a 122-year-old Jewish publication based in New York; she tweets @TalyaZax