WASHINGTON — President Biden slammed antisemitism last week at a White House-hosted “United We Stand” summit against hate crimes, but he is being accused by some Orthodox Jewish leaders of excluding them from the event.
The Rev. Al Sharpton requested the summit after the May massacre of 10 black shoppers in Buffalo, and it brought together hundreds of activists and community leaders from minority groups. But Orthodox Jews, who suffer a large number of hate crimes, struggled to make the cut.
Orthodox Jewish Chamber of Commerce CEO Duvi Honig told The Post he tried to RSVP, contacting three Biden staffers and even brandishing an endorsement from the New Jersey Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy’s office to be honored as a Uniter — an award bestowed to 16 people at the event.
He didn’t hear back.
“The question is, is [Biden] punishing the Orthodox community for supporting [former President Donald] Trump? Regardless, my concern is as we’re going into the high holy holidays, would people read that Orthodox Jew attacks aren’t recognized by the White House? Because that encourages people to continue to be more aggressive” Honig said.
“The White House used hate. They used us, our blood — they used our DNA of Jews being persecuted and attacked daily as an excuse to make an event and didn’t include Orthodox Jews, who were the number one [target of] hate and antisemitism,” Honig said.
At least one Orthodox Jew was admitted to the hundreds-strong gathering — Nathan Diament of the Orthodox Union — but Honig said it wasn’t enough. “One person trickled in!” he said dismissively, adding that it would have been more appropriate to invite a New York-area member of the community, given the group’s center of population and epicenter of victimization.
Roughly 800 of about 2,700 antisemitic incidents in 2021 — or nearly one third of them — occurred in New Jersey or New York.
“They didn’t recognize any Orthodox Jew as a Uniter purposely, which stands out while then recogniz[ing] Islamic, Reform [Jews], [Christian leaders] and so on,” said Honig, whose group seeks to build economic bridges between communities. “Our community’s leaders from the various large communities of Orthodox sectors where daily attacks accrue were missing [from] the summit and not invited.”
Honig said that he believes Reform Jews, who were better represented at the summit, are less likely to experience hate crimes because they don’t wear the conspicuous attire of many Orthodox Jews. “We were used and stepped on and spit out. There’s just no better way to say it than you’re making a wedding and you’re not inviting the bride and groom — you just wanted a party,” he said.
A group of four Orthodox Jewish journalists from Ami magazine led by reporter Jake Turx also were barred from the summit’s primary attraction: a speech by Biden in the nearly 3,000 square foot East Room.
Although the four journalists submitted electronic RSVPs, they were each told “spacing constraints” meant they couldn’t join a crowd of other reporters selected via a mysterious prescreening process, which the Biden press office recently eased after a press corps revolt.
The Orthodox reporters pleaded with staffers including press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre before the event — and were assisted in a valiant last-minute effort by a Jewish press staffer — but ultimately were left covering the event from the White House driveway rather than the indoor venue with Biden.
It’s unclear who assembled the guest list for the summit or the list of reporters allowed into it.
A White House official told The Post that there was a reporter allowed into the room from the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, and that in addition to Orthodox Union leader Diament, several other non-Orthodox Jews participated in the summit. The union’s vice president, Moshe Hauer, was invited but wasn’t able to attend.
Joseph Borgen, a New Yorker attacked last year while wearing a yarmulke, was included in a “survivors” panel at the summit.
During his remarks, Biden said he decided to run for president after hearing the “antisemitic bile” of white supremacists during 2017 racial clashes in Charlottesville, and said that there’s a “through line” of deeply ingrained prejudice in US society.
“Unfortunately, such hate-fueled violence and threats are not new to America,” Biden said. “There is a through-line of hate from massacres of Indigenous people, to the original sin of slavery, the terror of the Klan, to anti-immigration violence against the Irish, Italians, Chinese, Mexicans, and so many others laced throughout our history.
“There is a through-line of violence against religious groups: antisemitic, anti-Catholic, anti-Mormon, anti-Muslim, anti-Hindu, anti-Sikh.”
Diament, who like Honig wears a yarmulke but not the flowing black clothing of other Orthodox Jews such as the Ami magazine contingent, pushed back on criticism of the guest list.
“I’m not gonna comment on the complaints of the journalists… I have no insight into how journalists are chosen to be in a room like that,” Diament said.
“In terms of what you say Duvi Honig is saying… the only thing I can say about that is I represent the Orthodox Union. We’re the largest Orthodox Jewish umbrella organization in the United States. And I was invited as well as Rabbi Moshe Hauer.”
The Jewish Anti-Defamation League, whose CEO Jonathan Greenblatt participated in the summit, said, “ADL did not have advanced knowledge of the attendee list nor is ADL aware that certain groups were excluded. These questions need to be directed to the White House.”
“ADL has been vocal about the threats to visibly Orthodox communities. We will continue to fight antisemitism directed at Orthodox Jews and all members of our community,” the group said.
Sharpton’s National Action Network did not respond to The Post’s inquiry about the summit.
Turx contacted Jean-Pierre after the summit to express concern about the sidelining of his Orthodox Jewish team despite the toll of hate crimes on the community.
A White House official told The Post and Turx that he didn’t make the cut initially because for capacity limits in the room — an enduring point of contention between the White House and the White House Correspondents’ Association, which wants East Room events to return to being “open press,” meaning all journalists on the White House grounds can attend, as was the case during past administrations.
The official would not identify which White House officials were involved in pre-screening journalists, but in the most detailed description of the practice to date said that there were roughly 40 journalistic slots available — a determination made based on the size of the crowd of guests — and that about 20 spots went to members of the daily press pool, including reporters and photographers.
There were more than 50 journalists who RSVPed for what the White House decided would be about 20 remaining spots, the official said.
Turx ultimately received a response from the press office days after the summit saying it would try to include his publication in other events — giving Turx optimism that the experience will improve his community’s representation in the future.
“I’m relieved that we were able to reach an understanding,” Turx said in a statement to The Post. “The Jewish people have enough enemies as is. Thankfully the White House press shop isn’t on that list.”