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House passes the Shalom Act, despite division in Jewish community


KATHERINE ZEHNDER

Carolina Journal


On Wednesday, the NC House of Representatives passed HB 942, the SHALOM Act, in a bipartisan vote of 105-4, one week after it was filed by House Speaker Tim Moore.


“Considering the recent rise of violence and hate speech toward Jewish individuals across the country, it is imperative that we recognize antisemitism when we see it,” Moore said in a press release. “I am proud to sponsor the SHALOM Act, which provides a working definition for antisemitism, and I am encouraged by the bipartisan support the bill received today in the House.”


HB 942 would amend Chapter 12 of the North Carolina General Statutes to define antisemitism as described in the bill, reported by the Carolina Journal last week. 


Before the House vote, Moore held a press conference Wednesday morning, followed by a House Judiciary Committee meeting, during which the bill was discussed, reported favorably, and referred to the House Rules Committee, and later went to the House for a vote. 


The bill’s primary co-sponsors are Rep. Erin Paré, R-Wake, Rep. Stephen Ross, R-Alamance, and Rep. Tricia Ann Cotham, R-Mecklenburg.  


“What we’ve now seen is that the violence of those who are just supporting radical terrorism is now seeping its way into the United States and right here in North Carolina,” said Moore during his press conference. “While I believe roughly 2% of our population is Jewish, we have seen an inordinate amount of antisemitism, behavior, attacks, vandalism, you name it, physical assaults, and enough is enough. And so, what this law that we have filed that will be heard in committee and in the House today is to provide a working definition of what antisemitism is. That’s very important because if there’s going to be an application of laws that we have that are already on the books and already in place under Chapter 14, we need to know what that working definition is.”


“Our young people are seeing and hearing anti-Israel protests break out on college campuses all around the country, and of course, right here in North Carolina,” said Paré during the press conference. “While we as Americans have the right to free speech, hate of any kind has no place in our communities. We cannot address antisemitism if we cannot define it. “


Pare said it is up to the General Assembly as leaders in North Carolina to define what antisemitism is and to guide young people, teachers, administrators, and local leaders to recognize antisemitism when it occurs. She said 31 states and the District of Columbia have also adopted the bill, which should not be construed to diminish or infringe upon any rights protected under the First Amendment. 


“I had an opportunity back some years ago on a trip overseas to visit Auschwitz, and I walked away from there a changed person because I had heard things as I grew up as a kid, but I never really realized it until I walked in there and saw the atrocities of what took place, said Ross. “We’re actually in a period right now where we’re talking about and remembering the Holocaust. And I think we should never, ever forget certain things in history, and that is one of them, and so that’s the purpose for me signing on to this bill.”


After seeing acts of violence taking place around the country, especially on college campuses. Ross felt it was time for him to stand up with his colleagues and come up with this definition that would help protect those of the Jewish faith.


Glenda Bernhardt, CEO of the Greensboro Jewish Federation, and Phillip Brodsky, CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Raleigh, also made statements during the press conference. 

Jewish community members made strong statements in support of and against HB 942 during the House Judiciary Committee meeting.


“I first want to welcome speaker Tim Moore to the fight on antisemitism,” said Abby Lublin, executive director of Carolina Jews for Justice (CJJ). “We have been at this for a very long time. We need bold and, decisive, and rigorous action to confront this vile hatred in our state.”

However, Lublin said that the bill is not the bold, decisive action they need because it does nothing to protect Jewish people. 


“In fact, it’s a messaging bill that distracts from serious action to actually dismantle antisemitism,” she said. “It is a political stunt exploiting Jews to do so. It has the bonus of also threatening civil liberties fundamental to this country.” 


Lublin outlined actions that the legislature could take to advance the fight against antisemitism that CJJ would support and that they believe would make a difference. 

“The Jewish people deserve to have a place that they belong in,”  said Alexandra Oken, a member of Stand with Us. “Israel is where we belong. The belief that we don’t deserve to have a home, that we should be pushed out ‘from the River to the Sea’ is a belief rooted in hatred and the anti-semitic belief that you should be eradicated and should continue living in the diaspora with nowhere to call home.”


Oken said that anyone who believes this is an anti-Semite and is against her, her people, and her family.


“The second you cross the line from respectful criticism to loud and threatening speech which threatens students in need, that speech needs to be called out and shut down immediately in order for students and people like me to continue to feel safe in our schools,” she said.


Wane Turner, the North Carolina Green Party’s gubernatorial candidate, described HB 942 as “deeply flawed.”


Those who voted against the bill were Reps. Pricey Harrison, D-Guilford, Nasif Majeed, D-Mecklenbrrg, Marcia Morey, D-Durham, and Renee Price, D-Orange. 

The bill now goes on to the Senate for a vote.


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