South Carolina adopts IHRA working definition of antisemitism

South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster signs a bill into law codifying the IHRA working definition of antisemitism on May 23, 2024. Credit: S.C. Governor’s Office.

(JNS) — South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster signed H. 4042, a bill that codifies the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of antisemitism, into state law on May 23.

“Following the brutal terrorist attacks on Israel, we have seen an alarming rise in antisemitism not only around the world but shockingly on many of our nation’s college campuses and on the streets of many large cities,” the governor stated.

“South Carolina has long stood with Israel and with our Jewish community, which has a long proud history in our state,” he added. “This bill signing sends a clear and unified message that South Carolina will continue to stand firm against antisemitism.”

The House passed the measure unanimously on May 4, 2023. An amended bill passed the Senate, 44-0, on April 17, and the revised bill passed the House, 71-26, on April 24.

At the bill signing, the governor said “I don’t know if everyone recalls, but the oldest continuously operating synagogue in this country is in Charleston, South Carolina — 1749,” He was referring to the Reform congregation Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim, which is celebrating its 275th anniversary this year.

“For all the history buffs out there, that is, in fact, before the Declaration of Independence and before there was a country,” McMaster said. “At the time of the Revolutionary War, there were more Jews in South Carolina, specifically Charleston with that synagogue, than there was at any other place in the country.”

Beth Bernstein, a state representative and the bill’s main sponsor, said that there must be clarity about what antisemitism means before one can try to solve it. “South Carolina needs this working definition of antisemitism, and I am delighted that we will now be one of those states,” she said.

“Today, we stand united for the future of our children because together, we will build a better, more just future that our children and grandchildren deserve, and, as always, South Carolina is leading the way,” said Elan Carr, CEO of the Israeli American Council.

Speaking during the signing ceremony, Carr noted that “South Carolina was the very first state in the union to adopt laws against the notorious boycott, divestment and sanctions movement targeting Israel.”

“You know, that’s the old ‘don’t buy from the Jews’ movement,” he said. “It’s a very old movement and now it applies to the Jewish state.”

“Thank you to Gov. McMaster for signing H.4042, the IHRA Antisemitism definition bill, into law today,” wrote Brandon Fish, director of community relations at the Charleston Jewish Federation. “Thanks to Beth Bernstein for authoring the bill and taking it to the finish line.”

Fish also thanked the Federation, IAC and “many others for advocating for this bill for two years.”

The Israeli Consulate in Atlanta also thanked those involved in the bills’ passage. “Thank you to Governor Henry McMaster for signing this important bill into law, and for your longstanding support of Israel and the Jewish people. Thank you to Rep. Alan Clemmons for first introducing the bill, and to Rep. Beth Bernstein for championing it in the General Assembly. We deeply appreciate everyone who worked tirelessly on accomplishing this legislative achievement.”

With staff reports.