Jewish group urges lawmakers to denounce white nationalism in new campaign

A Jewish civil rights group is urging all incoming members of Congress to sign a pledge denouncing white nationalism. 

The New York-based organization Bend the Arc: Jewish Action on Thursday launched "Reject White Nationalism," a campaign that urges constituents across the country to pressure their new and incumbent lawmakers to sign a pledge recognizing the "threat" of white nationalism.

The campaign website lists the Twitter and Facebook accounts of all lawmakers currently set to serve in the 116th Congress, urging participants to pressure their senators and representatives with the hashtag #RejectWhiteNationalism.

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The declaration that lawmakers are being asked to sign reads, "I unequivocally reject white nationalism and recognize it is a threat to individuals, communities, and American democracy itself."

The campaign comes weeks after a white supremacist and anti-Semite is accused of opening fire in a Pittsburgh synagogue, killing 11 in the deadliest attack against Jewish people in U.S. history.

Bend the Arc at the time penned an open letter telling President TrumpDonald John TrumpAmash responds to 'Send her back' chants at Trump rally: 'This is how history's worst episodes begin' McConnell: Trump 'on to something' with attacks on Dem congresswomen Trump blasts 'corrupt' Puerto Rico's leaders amid political crisis MORE he was not welcome in Pittsburgh until he unequivocally denounced bigotry and white nationalism. The letter ultimately received more than 150,000 signatures. 

“In recent weeks, we have seen the horrific consequences of what happens when white nationalism is championed by politicians in the highest positions of government,” Stosh Cotler, CEO of Bend the Arc, said in a statement. “The time is now for all elected leaders to firmly reject this ideology of hatred and division and embrace a politics that upholds the rights, dignity and humanity of all people." 

"Jewish Americans are determined to make clear that overt or covert support for white nationalist beliefs is completely unacceptable, and we hope that a vast majority of members of Congress will join us in that commitment," she continued. 

Bend the Arc's Washington director Rabbi Jason Kimelman-Block told The Hill that the group has partnered with 20 other progressive and civil rights organizations to get the word out about the campaign, which will take place mainly on social media.

"The public deserves to know exactly where every member of Congress stands on this threat to our society," Kimelman-Block said.

Kimelman-Block mentioned a recent CNN report that found many white supremacists feel emboldened by the recent midterm elections.

"Many white nationalists are celebrating the election because they saw that some of the rhetoric in the election itself as mainstreaming some of its ideas," he said. "A role [lawmakers] can play is to be very public of their rejection of it ... to recognize that it's kind of a growing movement of hate groups that are out there."

He added the campaign is not about "Republican or Democrat," but "who’s safe, who’s included and who’s dignified in our society."

The campaign website says Bend the Arc will update the roster of lawmakers before Thanksgiving to indicate which have signed the pledge.

An FBI report released this week found that hate crimes increased in the U.S. for the third year in a row in 2017, rising 17 percent from the previous year, according to an FBI report released Tuesday. That is the largest single-year increase in hate crimes since 2001. 

There was also a nearly 23 percent increase in religion-based hate crimes in 2017, with a 37 percent increase in anti-Semitic hate crimes, according to the FBI.

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Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker said in a statement that he was "particularly troubled by the increase in anti-Semitic hate crimes — which were already the most common religious hate crimes in the United States."

Civil rights advocates have been raising concerns about the historic rise in white nationalism across the country over the past decade. 

"The violent rhetoric and incendiary speech that has led to hate-filled murders across the country is a symptom, not the disease,” Cotler said in the statement. “And while it is important that our elected officials take a stand against the words that fuel attacks on our communities, it is even more critical that they take a stand against the white nationalist ideology that undergirds that dangerous rhetoric and threatens our democracy.”

Updated at 1:13 p.m.