Virginia Gov. Youngkin issues directive to combat antisemitism — By: Catholic News Agency

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin with state police in 2023. / Credit: Virginia Office of the Governor|Wikipedia|CC BY 2.0

CNA Staff, Nov 1, 2023 / 16:06 pm (CNA).

Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin this week issued a directive meant to combat what the Republican executive called “hatred, intolerance, and antisemitism” throughout the state.

The governor’s executive directive, issued on Oct. 31, “instructs law enforcement to increase information exchange and resource coordination on potential antisemitic acts,” Youngkin’s office said.

Youngkin in his Tuesday directive said that “following Hamas’ barbaric and deadly terror attacks on Oct. 7, reports of antisemitism have significantly increased in the Commonwealth.”

Street protesters in the state capital of Richmond have “voiced antisemitic slogans and called for the extermination of the Jewish community in Israel,” Youngkin wrote, while some state public universities have seen acts of vandalism and harassment directed toward Jewish students and memorials.

The directive mandates that a “chief coordinating officer” will oversee a “situation room,” one that will be focused on “enhancing our comprehensive efforts to protect houses of worship and religious affiliated institutions in the Commonwealth of Virginia” through collaboration with law enforcement.

The directive also calls for the expedition of grants to organizations “facing religious or ethnicity-based persecution.”

The directive in Virginia comes amid reports of rising levels of antisemitism throughout the United States. FBI Director Christopher Wray warned Congress this week that the threat of antisemitism “is reaching, in some way, sort of historic levels.” 

The heightened threat of antisemitic bigotry in the U.S. comes amid the ongoing Israel-Hamas war, which began with the Hamas terrorist group’s invasion of Israel on Oct. 7 that killed over 1,300 people.

Last month Franciscan University of Steubenville announced the creation of an expedited transfer process for Jewish students in danger of antisemitic discrimination and violence on campuses across the United States. University President Father Dave Pivonka, TOR, said that the U.S. is “witnessing a very troubling spike in antisemitism and serious threats against Jewish students.”

In addition to coordination between law enforcement bodies, the measure directs the state secretary of public safety and homeland security to “collaborate with and offer resources and training on combating antisemitism and other religious and ethnic-based violence” to campus safety officials throughout the state.

Public residential universities and colleges in the state were directed to submit updated safety plans to the government, while the state public superintendent was directed to “collaborate with local school division superintendents” to promote safety among student populations. 

The governor said in the directive that “protecting the community centers and houses of worship of the Jewish people is paramount,” though he noted that the measure “extends to all religions, including those of the Muslim faith, who are increasingly concerned about backlash.”

“Hatred, intolerance, and antisemitism have no place in Virginia,” Youngkin said in the announcement. “As governor, the safety and security of all Virginians is my paramount concern.”

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