At a press conference Monday, state Rep. Kristin Marcell (R-Richboro) said many of her Jewish constituents have called asking for help combatting surging antisemitism in their communities.

“Just yesterday, there was graffiti on sidewalks with hateful messages all throughout Doylestown in Bucks County. That is right next to my district,” Marcell said.

In response, she got joined other representatives in December and crafted a legislative package. Those bills remain stuck in committee.

So Marcell announced she’s bringing a discharge resolution to the House floor, a parliamentary maneuver to bring her bill on Holocaust education up for a vote.

“One in five young Americans think the Holocaust is a myth. One in five,” a clearly astonished Marcell said. Her proposal, HB 1986, would require schools offering Holocaust education to make the curriculum available on their websites for parents and community members to see.

“Since that bill was introduced in December, the only action we have seen in the commonwealth is an increase in antisemitic incidents and new confrontations on college campuses,” said Marcell.

Since introducing her legislation, she’s heard from Jewish residents across the state.

“Some have said they are afraid to speak out, and they’re living in fear of what they’re seeing in their communities,” said Marcell. “Yet the Pennsylvania House of Representatives has taken absolutely no action to address these issues.

“The Democratic majority in the House has failed to act decisively on this pressing issue…It is our duty to ensure that antisemitism is confronted and eradicated in our schools, universities and communities. Let’s make it clear: Pennsylvania will not tolerate hate and will stand firmly with our Jewish community members.”

Rep. Martina White (R-Philadelphia) agrees Pennsylvania leaders need to act.

“Since the Oct. 7 terrorist attack on Israel, we have seen an alarming surge in antisemitic incidents against our Jewish friends and neighbors here and at home,” White said. “Since Oct. 7, college campuses nationwide, including many here in Pennsylvania, have been the site of frequent antisemitic incidents, leaving Jewish students fearful for their lives while the House Democratic majority has failed to fight antisemitism in our commonwealth. We stand here today in support of our Jewish neighbors and against antisemitism.

“I am proud to sign this discharge resolution and to advance multiple pieces of legislation to advance their right to live and worship peacefully in Pennsylvania,” said White.

White said her bill would defund colleges and universities that permit antisemitism for the following academic year. Also, students convicted of occupying academic buildings, institutional vandalism, desecrating sacred objects, or ethic intimidation would lose their state education grants.

“We’ve all seen the despicable videos of Hamas activists marching through campuses and calling for the elimination of the Jewish people,” said White. “Unlawful on-campus encampments and Jewish students being physically assaulted and prevented from attending classes…Such hatred and, in many instances, criminal conduct cannot be tolerated against any ethnic or religious minority group on campuses cannot be tolerated, especially in schools that are receiving state funding.”

“We must make certain Jewish students and all students return to safe campuses this fall,” said White. “We must defund antisemitism at all levels.”

Rep. Robert Mercuri (R-Allegheny) mentioned the three university presidents, including the University of Pennsylvania’s Liz Magill, who spoke to Congress but failed to say that calling for Jewish genocide violates their schools’ codes of conduct. “Each of those university presidents failed,” he said.

“We took action,” said Mercuri, who said he had visited Israel in 2022 and saw the kibbutzim that Hamas attacked the following year.

“Dozens and dozens of young people, women, and children were slaughtered,” said Mercuri. “This is the stark reality of the time we are living in. And this is the time for leadership. This caucus stands with our Jewish breathers and sisters. We want to make it clear that taxpayer funds should not follow these universities unless and until they make it clear that calls for genocide and antisemitic behavior are against their code of conduct.”

House Republican Leader Bryan Cutler (R-Lancaster) said a discharge petition is needed to advance House Bill 1986, legislation requiring curriculum transparency in Holocaust education, as House Democrats continue to stall in advancing the measure.

“As antisemitism continues to grab hold of institutions of higher education, it is clear from our work in combatting this form of invidious hate in all levels of education that ignorance of the past is a leading factor in the troubles of today. While many of Pennsylvania’s schools offer some form of education on the Holocaust, students are graduating with an insufficient understanding of the Holocaust and the dangers of antisemitism and hate,” Cutler said.

“Providing transparency in Holocaust education curriculums will help students, families, and policymakers know where weaknesses in Holocaust education exist and what can be done better to ensure the horrors of the past are not repeated in the future,” he said.

Pennsylvania Democrats have struggled to keep their activist base, which embraces anti-Israel rhetoric, on board as they simultaneously reach out to Jewish voters, who’ve long been part of their progressive coalition. Rather than staking out a clear position, House Speaker Joanna McClinton (D-Philadelphia) is noncommittal on the discharge petition.

“When the discharge resolution meets the requirements outlined in the House rules, the discharge resolution on HB 1986 will be put before the House for a vote,” said McClinton’s spokesperson Nicole Reigelman.

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