The race is on: Can Congress save the American Jewish community from destabilizing a rare plank of cross-ideological consensus?

First, the good news. The House of Representatives ended the day on a high note by passing a bill, sponsored by GOP Rep. Mike Lawler, to codify a specific definition of anti-Semitism for the purposes of federal antidiscrimination laws. The definition in this bill was the product of a fairly broad communal organization known as the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, made up of government and private sector representatives of about three-dozen or so countries focusing on modern anti-Semitism.

In the grand scheme of things, the importance of defining anti-Semitism with granular specificity is debatable, but two factors argue convincingly in favor of going through the effort to do so. First, we should know what we’re talking about when we’re talking about a timeless threat to the Jewish people. Second, when it’s used in the protections of civil-rights law, the more specificity the better. IHRA settled on the following: “Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”

IHRA provides a list of contemporary examples, and the ones about Israel have been the source of the most debate. In the end, it’s a good definition, and a popular one within the Jewish community. The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, the umbrella of organized U.S. Jewry, celebrated the passage of the bill late this afternoon.

Unfortunately, IHRA needed the boost, because for months the post-Oct. 7 consensus in the Jewish community has been weakening.

The closest thing to an alternative definition is the Nexus project, an effort by activists and academics to shield a segment of the political left from accusations of anti-Semitism by excepting common progressive transgressions. Let’s put it this way: If you begin your sentences with the phrase “As a Jew…” you probably back the Nexus definition. There are plenty of folks in the Nexus camp working in good faith, but the progressive political determinations behind its existence are unavoidable.

In January, the Forward carried a head-scratcher of a story: The Nexusites were—in the midst of a global hurricane of left anti-Semitism, no less—building a political operation to challenge IHRA and ensure not only that the American Jewish community spends resources fighting amongst itself but that this intra-communal fight would take on a political shade.

Now, when you read about the Jewish community preparing to punch itself in the stomach, the first question that comes to mind is, of course: How is J Street involved? And the answer is Kevin Rachlin, who announced he was stepping down as a top J Street lobbyist to take the helm of Nexus’s newly formed political operation.

“We’re not anti-IHRA,” said Rachlin about the organization created solely and specifically to oppose IHRA.

In any event, Democratic politicians loved the idea of being able to hand out “get out of anti-Semitism free” cards to party members who were poised to be like teenagers speeding down the highway with a PBA card in the glovebox. In December, reportedly on the advice of Nexus-affiliated activists, Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) led a Democratic revolt against Republicans’ attempts to slap down rising anti-Semitism dressed up as criticism of Israel. I explained at the time how Nadler’s own argument disproved the point he was trying to make, but the effect was clear: Whatever semblance of a truce the American Jewish community had going since Oct. 7 was off. We’d been agreeing with each other far too much and it was giving Jerry Nadler indigestion.

Lawler’s bill, helped by Democratic Rep. Josh Gottheimer’s efforts, today overcame Nadler’s disapproval to advance a common understanding of anti-Semitism at a crucial time. But the Democrats have been unnerved by the so-called “tentifada”—the various Jew-baiting encampments springing up around college campuses—and a number of powerful politicians are very clearly terrified of the quad-dwellers occupying buildings and making demands.

The hope is that the bipartisan IHRA support can outrun its challengers, or build up enough momentum to shame Nexus into finding better things to do with its time and resources than politicize anti-Semitism and re-divide the Jewish community at a moment when doing so would be especially damaging.

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