Published originally in Haaretz.

WASHINGTON – A broad array of U.S. Jewish organizations and denominations urged leading Senators on Thursday to consider Deborah Lipstadt as U.S. Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism.

In a letter written to Senators Robert Menendez and James Risch — the chair and ranking member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations — and sent to all members of the committee, the 21 national Jewish organizations and all four streams of U.S. Judaism said “filling this position is a high priority…and of utmost importance in fighting growing antisemitism and hate worldwide.”

Republicans on the committee have been delaying Lipstadt‘s hearing due to past tweets critical of Republican lawmakers, notably committee member Sen. Ron Johnson. “Every day that we delay filling this critical position, we are endangering people’s lives. We cannot let antisemitism become a wedge issue in today’s polarized politics,” the letter continues.

“To this end, we strongly urge you to prioritize filling this position, which is not only the right thing to do, but also sends a powerful signal to governments around the world that the U.S. takes combating antisemitism seriously and calls on them to do the same,” they add.

The antisemitism envoy is the country’s highest-ranking public official tasked with combatting anti-Jewish prejudice. It was elevated to an ambassadorial-level position last December, adding weight to its mission of combating antisemitism at a global level, and the prospective envoy will have to be confirmed by the Senate prior to assuming the position.

The debate over the envoy’s background had been a topic of fierce debate within the U.S. Jewish community — particularly between establishment organizations and progressive Jewish figures over whether criticism of the State of Israel constitutes antisemitism.

Lipstadt, who taught at Emory University for nearly 30 years and has authored eight works on antisemitism and the Holocaust, came to international prominence in the 1990s after she was sued by author David Irving for accusing him of Holocaust denial. Lipstadt won the case, and she was eventually portrayed by actress Rachel Weisz in the 2016 film “Denial” about the trial. 

Groups signed on the letter include the American Jewish Congress, the Anti-Defamation League, B’nai B’rith International, Central Conference of American Rabbis, Hadassah: The Women’s Zionist Organization of America, J Street, Jewish Council for Public Affairs, Jewish Labor Committee, Jewish War Veterans of the USA, Jewish Women International, National Council of Jewish Women, NCSEJ, ORT America, Rabbinical Assembly, Reconstructing Judaism, Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association, the Jewish Federations of North America, and the Union for Reform Judaism.

© 2020 American Jewish Congress.