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Trump’s proposed $3m cut to Holocaust museum sparks bipartisan backlash

64 lawmakers demand federal funding of Washington DC memorial be maintained; ADL says cutting budget a ‘mistake’

US President Donald Trump visits the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial museum in Jerusalem on May 23, 2017. (AFP Photo/Gali Tibbon)
US President Donald Trump visits the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial museum in Jerusalem on May 23, 2017. (AFP Photo/Gali Tibbon)

WASHINGTON — A proposed budget cut by President Donald Trump of $3 million to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum has sparked a bipartisan backlash in the nation’s capital.

Sixty-four members of Congress sent a letter to the president Friday demanding the budget proposal be amended to maintain the museum’s current funding levels, while Anti-Defamation League chief Jonathan Greenblatt issued a statement calling the cuts “a mistake.”

Trump’s 2018 budget request — titled “A New Foundation for American Greatness” — calls for massive cuts in non-discretionary spending to make room for increased spending on infrastructure, a border wall and national defense.

The proposed cuts include $3 million in federal support that goes to the Washington, D.C. Holocaust museum, roughly a 5 percent decrease in the museum’s budget. The cut would return the museum’s budget to its 2016 level of $54 million.

“In our view, the mission of the museum has never been more important, particularly as the number of anti-Semitic attacks around the world rises,” the Congressional letter said. “Now is not the time to cut funding for this national treasure.”

Interior of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, located south of the National Mall, on 14th Street, S.W., in Washington, DC (CC BY-SA AgnosticPreachersKid)
Interior of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, located south of the National Mall, on 14th Street, S.W., in Washington, DC (CC BY-SA AgnosticPreachersKid)

The letter was orchestrated by Florida Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R), New York Rep. John Katko (R), Florida Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D) and Arizona Rep. Kyrsten Sinema (D), according to The Hill.

The White House budget blueprint says that the specific cut “will assist in meeting the President’s budget objectives, while still providing adequate funds to cover pay increases and rising costs for current services for the Museum’s facilities and collections. The decrease is achieved by reductions in staff and selected non-pay areas.”

Since January, nearly 150 bomb threats have hit JCCs, Jewish day schools and other institutions. They caused the evacuation of dozens of Jewish community centers and prompted some parents to remove their children from JCC programs.

A man looking at fallen tombstones at the Jewish Mount Carmel Cemetery in Philadelphia, February 26, 2017. (Dominick Reuter/AFP/Getty Images)
A man looking at fallen tombstones at the Jewish Mount Carmel Cemetery in Philadelphia, February 26, 2017. (Dominick Reuter/AFP/Getty Images)

Most of the calls were found to be the work of an Israeli-American teen from Ashkelon, who has been who has since been charged with making thousands of bomb threats over the last two years.

The head of the ADL said the uptick in anti-Semitism and other hate crimes necessitated a “robust and active” museum.

“As the events of the past few months have shown, we need a robust and active US Holocaust Memorial Museum more than ever and it would be a mistake to cut funding to the museum,” Greenblatt said in a statement.

“In these divided times, with increasing numbers of hate crimes against Jews and other religious minorities, this museum’s mission is as critical as ever. We call on Congress to fully fund the Holocaust Museum.”

Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt speaking at the organization’s Never is Now conference in New York City, November 17, 2016. (Courtesy of the ADL)
Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt speaking at the organization’s Never is Now conference in New York City, November 17, 2016. (Courtesy of the ADL)

In April, the ADL found that anti-Semitic incidents in the United States saw a spike of 86 percent in the first quarter of 2017, according to data in its annual study of anti-Semitism in the US.

Since taking office, the Trump administration has repeatedly been forced to fend off claims of insensitivity to anti-Semitism and Holocaust-related matters.

In April, Press Secretary Sean Spicer drew intense criticism for falsely claiming Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler never used chemical weapons and referring to concentration camps as “Holocaust centers.”

While Spicer apologized for his remarks, the ADL offered to host a Holocaust education session for Spicer and other White House staffers.

Moreover, Trump’s January statement for International Holocaust Remembrance Day also caused controversy for omitting any mention of Jews or anti-Semitism.

US President Donald Trump visits the Western Wall, Monday, May 22, 2017, in Jerusalem. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
US President Donald Trump visits the Western Wall, Monday, May 22, 2017, in Jerusalem. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Trump is the first president with immediate family members who are Jewish. His daughter Ivanka married Jared Kushner, an Orthodox Jew, in 2009, and converted to Judaism.

The two — who observe Shabbat and keep kosher — have raised their three children, the youngest of whom was born last March, Jewish.

Trump visited Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust Museum, last month when he embarked on his first foreign trip as president, which included several stops in the region, including in Saudi Arabia, Israel and the West Bank.

He also delivered a strong denunciation of Jewish hatred when he delivered the keynote address at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum’s annual National Commemoration of the Days of Remembrance in April.

“This is my pledge to you,” he told those in attendance. “We will confront anti-Semitism.”

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