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President Trump signed an executive order on Wednesday to virtually define Judaism as a race or national origin, not just a religion, under the Civil Rights Act.

The big picture: The order is meant to address anti-Jewish bias in universities. It also expands acts of anti-Semitism to include anti-Israel statements. Both measures have been spearheaded by Kenneth Marcus, head of the Department of Education's Office of Civil Rights, the New York Times notes.

  • Marcus opened investigations into the University of Pennsylvania and Stanford University over alleged admissions biases against Jewish people.
  • He also investigated and reopened cases at New York University, the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and Rutgers University dealing with anti-Israel sentiments and schools that allegedly created hostile environments for Jewish students.

Between the lines: Trump's signature comes amid several anti-Semitic attacks in America. A mass shooter killed three people at a kosher grocery store in Jersey City, New Jersey, on Tuesday after posting anti-Semitic remarks online.

  • An attacker in April at Poway Synagogue in California killed one woman, and a shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh last year killed 11.

What they're saying: Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law who is Jewish, wrote in a New York Times op-ed Wednesday that the order is aimed at protecting Jewish students. In response to criticism that it would further separate Jewish people in America, Kushner wrote:

"When news of the impending executive order leaked, many rushed to criticize it without understanding its purpose. The executive order does not define Jews as a nationality. It merely says that to the extent that Jews are discriminated against for ethnic, racial or national characteristics, they are entitled to protection by the anti-discrimination law."

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