After 8 Month Delay, Senate Confirms Prof. Deborah Lipstadt as Special Envoy in Combatting Anti-Semitism  - The Jewish Voice
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After 8 Month Delay, Senate Confirms Prof. Deborah Lipstadt as Special Envoy in Combatting Anti-Semitism 

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After 8 Month Delay, Senate Confirms Prof. Deborah Lipstadt as Special Envoy in Combatting Anti-Semitism 

Edited by: Fern Sidman

After an eight-month delay, noted Holocaust scholar and expert on Anti-Semitism, Deborah Lipstadt was confirmed by the Senate for the position of special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism, in a late-night voice vote on Wednesday, March 30th, according to a report on the Religion News Service web site.

Pressure to hold the session, particularly from Jewish groups across the political spectrum, rose following the January standoff at a synagogue in Colleyville, Texas, where a gunman held four worshippers hostage, according to a report on the Times of Israel web site.

The Senate vote was required because the position was recently elevated to the rank of ambassador. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday approved the nomination, sending it to the full Senate on a vote of 13-9 with only two Republican senators, Mitt Romney from Utah and Marco Rubio from Florida, voting in favor, according to the RNS.com report.

Lipstadt’s nomination languished after Sen. Ron Johnson, a Wisconsin Republican, objected to her nomination, as was reported by RNS.com. He was offended, he said, by a tweet she wrote in which she said his comments about the Jan. 6 insurrection amounted to “white supremacy/nationalism.”

“You’ve never met me. You don’t know what’s in my heart. Do you?” he said at a hearing on her confirmation in February, in which he said he would not vote to confirm her.

Georgia Democrat Jon Ossoff introduced the motion to nominate Lipstadt in part because he represents Georgia and that is where Lipstadt. 75, lives as well.

In his four-minute speech before the Senate, Ossoff noted his Jewish heritage.

“It was U.S. forces who liberated Dachau and Buchenwald. and Annie and Israel, my great-grandparents, they got out of Europe,” Ossoff said, according to a JTA report. “Many of my family did not, Madam President, and they perished in the Holocaust. This isn’t ancient history. This is recent history. And right now as we speak, the scourge of antisemitism is rising again, in this country and around the world. If we mean the words ‘never again,’ then at long last Madam President, let’s confirm Deborah Lipstadt to fight antisemitism on behalf of the United States.”

The TOI report indicated that Lipstadt is best known to the wider public for her appearance in a landmark British legal case in which she fought a libel suit brought by Holocaust denier David Irving. That experience was depicted in the Hollywood feature film “Denial,” with Lipstadt played by Rachel Weisz.

She most recently served as the Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish History and Holocaust Studies at Emory University in Atlanta, where she was the founding director of the Institute for Jewish Studies.

The Times of Israel also reported that Lipstadt is the author of such books as “Beyond Belief: The American Press and the Coming of the Holocaust 1933-1945,” “History on Trial: My Day in Court with a Holocaust Denier,” “The Eichmann Trial,” “Holocaust: An American Understanding” and “Antisemitism: Here and Now.”

She has also served in several roles at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, including twice as a presidential appointee to the museum’s council, and was asked by former President George W. Bush to represent the US at the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, the White House noted in its biography of Lipstadt, as was reported by TOI.

Sen. Tammy Baldwin, the Wisconsin Democrat who presided over the session, called the vote. “The ayes appear to have it,” Baldwin said. There were no nays.

RNS reported that American Jews who had advocated for Lipstadt and pressed for her confirmation over many months breathed a sigh of relief. Although the position is intended to advance U.S. foreign policy on antisemitism, many American Jews, pained by rising antisemitism at home and abroad, felt it was critical.

In 2019, Sen. Jacky Rosen, a Democrat from Nevada. helped introduce the bipartisan Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism Act, which requires the president to appoint a special envoy and increases the rank of the envoy Ambassador, as was reported by RNS.

Reactions from a variety or Jewish organizations came in swiftly after Lipstadt was confirmed.

“At a time when there is rising antisemitism across the globe, it is reassuring to have a tireless warrior against the world’s oldest hatred assume this essential role,” the American Jewish Committee said in a press statement.

The voice of American Torah Jewry, the Agudath Israel of America organization said in a statement to the media that they commend the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for voting in favor of the nomination of Dr. Deborah Lipstadt as the State Department’s Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism.

Agudath Israel urges the full Senate to act swiftly to confirm the nomination and allow Dr. Lipstadt to promptly assume her responsibilities.

“As antisemitism continues to rise around the world, it is increasingly important that this position be filled as soon as possible,” said Rabbi Abba Cohen, Agudath Israel’s Vice President of Government Affairs and Washington Director. “Dr. Lipstadt’s background makes her uniquely qualified for this job, and Agudath Israel looks forward to working closely with her in the years ahead.”

The watchdog group StopAntisemitism.org released the following statement concerning Lipstadt’s confirmation, as well.

“Antisemitism is pervasive and growing at an alarming rate, both in the United States and around the world. With this backdrop, the role of special envoy to combat and monitor antisemitism has become increasingly more important, and we are thrilled to see that Deborah Lipstadt was confirmed with bipartisan support. Antisemitism must never be politicized.”

Reacting to the Senate’s confirmation of Lipstadt as the State Department’s special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism, World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder said:

“I want to send my and the World Jewish Congress’ heartfelt congratulations to Dr. Deborah Lipstadt, whom I admire greatly, on her long-overdue confirmation as U.S. special envoy on antisemitism at the rank of ambassador.

“When President Biden first nominated Dr. Lipstadt to this critically important position, I said that he and Secretary of State Blinken could not have found anyone better qualified to confront today’s challenges, and I am tremendously relieved that we will now have her powerful voice and moral leadership in the global fight against virulent and surging Jew-hatred, for make no mistake about it, that is what antisemitism is. I look forward to working closely with her in the months and years to come.”

William C. Daroff, CEO, of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, issued the following statement:

“I am pleased to finally extend a warm congratulations to my long-time friend and colleague Ambassador Deborah Lipstadt following her unanimous confirmation by the U.S. Senate to serve as Special Envoy for Monitoring and Combatting Antisemitism at the State Department.

“Having been involved with the creation of the post, working with the late Senator George Voinovich (R-OH) and the late Rep. Tom Lantos (D-CA), I can attest that her expertise is needed now more than ever – with antisemitism and Jew-hatred at seemingly all-time highs. We are still haunted as a community be the attack on the synagogue in Colleyville, Texas at the beginning of the year. And this week in Israel, terrorists claiming allegiance to the Islamic State have killed 11 innocent people in three different cities.

“We offer our full support at this critical time on behalf of American Jewry and look forward to working with Ambassador Lipstadt in the ongoing fight against antisemitism.”

Rhoda Smolow, the National President of Hadassah, The Women’s Zionist Organization of America, Inc. (HWZOA) released a statement on Thursday.

“Hadassah congratulates Ambassador Lipstadt on her confirmation by the Senate as the person who will serve the American people in its national effort to combat globally rising antisemitism. As an explicitly Zionist organization and stakeholder in the land of Israel, Hadassah knows firsthand the role antisemitism plays in threatening the safety and security of Israel and the Jewish people. The task before us is great, but Ambassador Lipstadt is the right person to help us build a more peaceful and tolerant world.

“Hadassah holds a long history of supporting the Office to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism. Our members were instrumental in establishing the office in 2004, and during the last Congress they advocated to elevate the Special Envoy to hold the rank of Ambassador and to expand the budget for the office.

“Combating antisemitism is not a partisan issue, but a human rights and national security imperative. We appreciate the bipartisan commitment of the US Senate to confirm Ambassador Lipstadt and we thank President Biden and Secretary Blinken for their commitment to prioritizing this important issue. Hadassah looks forward to working with Ambassador Lipstadt and supporting her work however possible.”

 

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