North Carolina Democratic Party Jewish Caucus

NC Democratic Party Jewish Caucus Endorses Shalom Act & Applauds Its Free Speech Protections

Yesterday, May 6, was Holocaust Remembrance Day, a day set aside to honor six million Jews killed eight decades ago. Today, the North Carolina Democratic Party Jewish Caucus endorses HB 942, the Shalom Act, as an important step in defending Jewish Americans from the ongoing surge in anti-Jewish hate and extremism. 

The introduction of The Shalom Act by the NC Legislature follows in the footsteps of the Biden-Harris Administration which, in the spring of 2023. released the most ambitious and comprehensive national strategy to counter antisemitism in U.S. history, mobilizing over 20 federal agencies and containing over 100 actionable steps to end this scourge of hatred and prevent antisemitic attacks.

The Shalom Act offers the working definition of antisemitism drafted by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) as a tool for North Carolina institutions that may choose to use it as a guide.  Governments, campus administrators, and civil society organizations around the world all use the IHRA definition of antisemitism to help understand and educate others about anti-Jewish bias, assess claims of antisemitism, and assist in identifying whether a crime might also be categorized as a hate crime motivated by antisemitic animus. 

While we feel that the IHRA definition can be a useful starting point for conversations around antisemitism, as Democrats we are also resolute in our commitment to free speech. We are glad to see that the bill clarifies that the use of this definition “shall not be construed to diminish or infringe upon any right protected under the First Amendment” and does not seek to criminalize or penalize any speech. The definition itself provides some examples of discourse which could contain anti-Jewish bias in some cases, but it avoids categorizing all discourse that falls under these examples as antisemitic.

In our current climate, where institutions and communities are struggling to grapple with the rise in anti-Jewish hate crimes and rhetoric while also protecting freedom of speech, this bill offers a constructive framework to work with.

The Shalom Act is especially vital for North Carolina’s Jewish community given the history of anti-Jewish rhetoric from Lieutenant Governor Mark Robinson, the Republican candidate for Governor. His minimization and outright denial of the Holocaust, his demonization of Jews relying on the ugliest stereotypes of our people, and above all, his repeated refusal to disavow this language make the adoption of this legislation more urgent than ever. Many of the examples of antisemitic rhetoric in the IHRA definition read like excerpts from Mark Robinson’s Facebook posts.

Ultimately, we believe that all communities affected by bigotry should have proactive support from the state legislature. People of color, women, the LGBTQ+ community, and all other populations that are targets of hate should have the same opportunity to define and explain the prejudice that affects them that this bill affords the Jewish community. We are committed to electing Democrats at every level of government to make that a reality for all North Carolinians.