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Video: After Republican Colleague Quotes from News Article on Anti-Semitic Slurs at UVA, Del. Laura Jane Cohen Delivers Impassioned Speech Against Jews Being “used for floor speeches or bills” by People Who Support Trump

In this case, Del. Paul Milde (R) was promoting his anti-DEI legislation

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See below for video and a transcript of Del. Laura Jane Cohen (D-Fairfax)’s floor speech earlier today in the Virginia House of Delegates, regarding anti-Semitism, in response to a speech yesterday by Del. Paul Milde (R-Stafford), in which Milde condemned “anti-Semitism at UVA” – quoting from this Daily Progress story, regarding how since the Hamas terrorist attack in Israel on 10/7/23, “UVa authorities have received dozens of reports from Jewish students claiming they’ve been harassed, threatened, intimidated and even physically assaulted.” In his speech, Milde quote from the Daily Progress article, which reported:

Since Oct. 7, Goldstein said he’s been the recipient of multiple death threats. During an Oct. 25 walkout led by the Students for Justice in Palestine, Goldstein said he was shoved and then slapped in the face while counterprotesting. He’s been told he “sells the organs of Palestinians on the black market” and been called “Nazi,” “Hitler,” “genocide-pursuer” and “filthy Jew.”

[…]

“While waiting in line at a party, two Jewish female students said they were called ‘kikes’ when another student discovered they were Jewish. At a gathering on Grounds, a Jewish student was harassed by a group of roughly eight schoolmates who told them to ‘turn sideways so we can see your nose,’ among other ‘jokes.’ The student left the event crying.”

So that was what Del. Milde was quoting – and condemning – in his floor speech yesterday, in which he argued that his bill (which would have required “that no diversity, equity, and inclusion-related program, instruction, or initiative provided or sponsored by such institution promotes anti-Semitism”) should have passed (it was, instead, left in House Rules Committee). So what Del. Cohen was arguing wasn’t that other delegates shouldn’t speak out against anti-Semitism, but that they shouldn’t use anti-Semitism (including their own condemnation of anti-Semitism) to promote their own anti-progressive agendas – in Milde’s case, an agenda that’s hostile to “diversity, equity and inclusion” initiatives – especially when – as Del. Cohen said – the leader of their party, Donald Trump, “stood behind people carrying torches saying ‘Jews will not replace us’…stated that Jews who vote for Democrats are very disloyal… accus[ed] liberal Jews of destroying America and Israel because they voted for Biden…[said] things like Jews control politicians through our money.” In short, Del. Cohen appears to be arguing that followers of Trump, of all people, shouldn’t be arguing for their right-wing policies by talking about anti-Jewish rhetoric, anti-Semitism, etc.

Anyway, see below for the video and transcript…

“Mr. Speaker, yesterday a member of this body used a Jewish slur while reading an article. I spoke with him and he was very apologetic, which I appreciate immensely. But what I wanted to talk about today was my reaction to it; when I heard the word, I burst into tears. And I couldn’t understand why. I’ve heard that word a thousand times. I’ve seen and heard worse. my family has seen and heard worse. My community has seen and heard worse.

In the last few months, navigating this world as a Jewish person has been hard. What’s happening in our world is tragic. And I don’t need to tell you the impact on Jews and Palestinians alike. But these words are not new. The images are not new. But I think the reason that I burst into tears yesterday is that I thought coming here would be different and that I would leave that behind. But instead, in these last few months, I’ve had people –  even very well-intentioned – say things that were hurtful and made me feel singled out. Even the lovely folks who pray with us and come to our office, one said to me, ‘oh you’re Jewish, you don’t look like it’. Not the first time that I’ve heard that. I remember when our son started religious school at our synagogue in kindergarten and afterwards he gleefully jumped in the car and said mom you would not believe how many Jewish kids were in my class. And in that moment I wondered if I had done enough to make him proud of his Jewish identity.

We’re used to hiding who we are and I never wanted our kids to feel different I never wanted to to be that Mom. We were the only Jewish family in our elementary school and I didn’t want my kids to feel othered, so I never said a word when Santa came, I never said a word when my kids created Christmas centerpieces, I never said a word when every song in our winter concert was Christian. And I think so many of us with our kids always wonder have I done enough.

Navigating this world as a religious minority isn’t easy. And I know so many members in this body are in the same place that I am. But we can’t give up because that isn’t an option. But today, I’m standing up in this body to say that we will not be used as pawns. We have a governor who as CEO of Carlyle Group did a beautiful job of working with diversity equity and inclusion. And yet when a bill comes to the floor that mentions DEI, there are groans, audible groans. He’s formed a Governor’s advisory committee just for us. And yet I hear unintentional words; even our ecumenical prayers often leave me feeling left out and
alone.

But we will not be used for floor speeches or bills for people who stand behind and renew their support for a man who stood behind people carrying torches saying Jews will not replace us, a man who stated that Jews who vote for Democrats are very disloyal, accusing liberal Jews of destroying America and Israel because they voted for Biden, saying things like Jews control politicians through our money.

So I’m asking my colleagues, please when you find yourself in a place that you speak on stage, that you are in the audience cheering I just want you to know that we see that, my kids see that. So no more speeches about us, about Israel. Because if you’re not willing to do the hard work of standing up to somebody who pretends to lead your party and this country, I would ask that you don’t say any more than on the floor in the name of Jews. Thank you.”

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