N.C. House passes ‘Shalom Act’; bill aims to officially define antisemitism

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) – A bill with a goal to officially define antisemitism in state law swiftly moved through the North Carolina House on Wednesday.

Supporters and critics are reacting to the recent campus protests over the Israel-Hamas war in the state and across the country, just with different views.

This week, the U.S. House passed an Antisemitism Awareness Bill with bipartisan support by a vote of 320 to 91.

And Wednesday, the North Carolina House passed House Bill 942, also known as the Shalom Act with a vote of 105 to 4.

Officials say the act would establish a definition of antisemitism in state law, adopting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition, outlined as “A certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews.”

Jacksonville Rabbi Yerachmiel Altman says in his opinion, antisemitism has always been an issue.

“This is probably going to be the most controversial thing I could say. I don’t think it’s rising, I think it’s coming out of the closet. I don’t think it’s new. My parents told me my father was a chemical engineer there were jobs he couldn’t get because he was Jewish,” says Altman.

Meanwhile, the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina says on social media the bill does not protect Jewish North Carolinians, but instead attacks free speech.

Policy Counsel Reighlah Collins says the ACLU defends the right to engage in political speech, including the right to criticize governments and their policies.

“The Shalom Act, it would chill constitutionally protected speech because it uses a defintion of antisemitism that conflates criticism of Israel with antisemitism,” says Collins.

Rabbi Altman says at the end of the day laws have to be interpreted with intelligence.

“They have to be interpreted with purpose promoting the purpose of the law not promoting the word. I don’t care how you word it you can read the word 75 different ways,” says Altman.

Elsewhere – bills with definitions of antisemitism have been signed into law in Arkansas, Georgia and South Dakota.

The Shalom Act now awaits NC Senate approval before going to Governor Roy Cooper, who has not said publicly if he will sign it.