Members of the Jewish community surround Gov. Doug Ducey after he signed HB2675 into law.

The state of Arizona passed SB1251/HB2675 by a vote of 19-9 (Senate) and 49-4 (House) on April 19. The legislation adopts the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism, ensuring that the IHRA definition will be considered by state authorities when investigating incidents of crime or discrimination.

The IHRA defines antisemitism as “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.”

The IHRA definition has been adopted or endorsed by 865 entities worldwide, including 37 countries and the U.S. Departments of Education and State.

“We applaud the state of Arizona for passing SB1251/HB2675,” said Stephanie Hausner, chief program officer with the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

“They are the 24th state to adopt the definition showing the broad support that exists for the most authoritative and internationally accepted definition of antisemitism, as well as the widespread view that it is critically important to define antisemitism in order to combat it successfully.”

The bill’s primary sponsors were Sen. David Gowan and Rep. Leo Biasiucci; the legislation was initially filed in 2020 but timed out due to the COVID-19 shutdown of the Arizona legislature.

“We appreciate the legislators’ attention to the growing threat of antisemitism,” said Tammy Gillies, regional director with the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) for San Diego and Arizona. “The IHRA definition serves a useful purpose as non-legally binding guidance and education for a range of stakeholders, including campus administrators, civil society organizations and other institutions. We look forward to partnering together to resolve some pending issues with hate crime data collection and ensure this law is implemented in a way that safeguards existing civil rights protections.”

According to the ADL’s Audit of Antisemitic Incidents, in 2020, antisemitic incidents remained historically high across the U.S., with a total of 2,024 incidents of assault, harassment and vandalism reported to ADL. Last year saw the third-highest number of reported incidents against American Jews since ADL started tracking the data in 1979.

The report also showed antisemitic incidents in Arizona rose overall by 10%, with a 45% rise in local antisemitic harassment specifically, while incidents involving vandalism and assault decreased only slightly.

“We are overdue for a clear definition to clarify antisemitism for law enforcement and other state officials,” said Jake Bennett, director of policy and legislative affairs for the Israeli-American Coalition for Action. “Our Jewish identity is complex, straddling as it does religion, ethnicity, national origin and ‘race.’ Likewise, our victimization is complex and often confusing to outsiders, who don’t always recognize it when it occurs without having it explained to them.

“This definition was crafted to educate about antisemitism,” Bennett continued. “Since 2010, it has been used by the State Department to evaluate incidents abroad and since 2019, it has been the official definition of the Department of Education for evaluating Title VI claims on college campuses. A further 20 states have also endorsed IHRA since January of this year. Arizona is once again a leader in dealing with the crisis of antisemitism head on.”

A few days before the Arizona vote, on April 14, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine ordered all state agencies, departments, boards and commissions, including all public colleges and universities to adopt the IHRA definition.

“Historically, antisemitism has been so deadly due to its evolving nature, making it difficult to identify and address. Arizona’s legislation is a first step in the right direction given that the IHRA definition addresses contemporary antisemitism and provides examples of such behavior,” said StandWithUs CEO Roz Rothstein in a statement released after the bill was passed.

Gov. Doug Ducey signed the bill into law at 11:30 a.m. on Monday, April 25. JN