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Former Acting U.S. Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen Discusses Rise of Antisemitism at Harvard IOP Forum

Former acting U.S. Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen speaks to Institute of Politics Director Setti Warren at a JFK Jr. Forum Monday evening on the rising threat of antisemitism.
Former acting U.S. Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen speaks to Institute of Politics Director Setti Warren at a JFK Jr. Forum Monday evening on the rising threat of antisemitism. By Claire Yuan
By Isabella G. Schauble and Megan S. Degenhardt, Contributing Writers

Former acting United States Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen discussed the growing threat of antisemitism at a Harvard Institute of Politics forum Monday evening.

The event was moderated by Setti D. Warren, who was recently appointed permanent director of the IOP. At the forum, Rosen, who graduated from Harvard Law School in 1982, discussed how antisemitic incidents have risen sharply over the past decade, as well as his experience as chair of the Virginia Commission to Combat Antisemitism.

“Some of the urgency that I see now is, it feels like there isn’t a day that goes by that we don't hear of some kind of episode,” Rosen said during the event.

Rosen, who is Jewish, said he believes recent cases of antisemitism are more extreme than those he recalled from his childhood.

“I don’t really remember this being a big issue or a big problem,” he said. “It’s not to say it ever went away.”

Referring to recent antisemitic incidents in New York, Rosen said he is concerned that hate crimes and hateful sentiment are taking place “on the streets of a major American city” — not just confined to fringe groups.

“For 2022, it was up to 219 incidents on college campuses,” Rosen said about displays of antisemitism. “This isn’t again a problem of the far corners of our society — it’s on our college campuses.”

Rosen and Warren also discussed the inadequacy of Holocaust education in the United States. Warren said “startling” portions of millennials and Gen Z adults have minimal knowledge of the Holocaust or believe it is a “myth or over exaggerated.”

“It’s a testament to the failure somewhere in our educational system,” Rosen said.

Rosen proposed four areas of improvement in efforts to combat antisemitism: antisemitism reporting databases, Holocaust education, security and law enforcement responses, and government policies on discrimination.

On the issue of improving Holocaust education, Rosen discussed recommendations proposed by the Virginia Commission to Combat Antisemitism, including adding curriculum on the history of antisemitism and implementing remembrance days into the school system.

Rosen also suggested creating antisemitism courses and centers at state law schools.

“The tools of the law are actually somewhat powerful,” Rosen said, adding that legal approaches are “not a panacea, but it’s one of the things to be done.”

Besides tackling antisemitism through legal measures, Rosen said it is important to combat the negative “cultural” impacts “when a professional football player or musician or somebody makes a very public antisemitic comment.”

“One of the things we really have to do is not just denounce these episodes but ensure that they aren't through the side door, normalizing it and making it socially acceptable,” Rosen said.

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IOPHarvard Kennedy School