The State of Israel and I both turned 70 on April 19 this year.
Israel’s birth 70 years ago was due in part to the unified voice of American Jewry being heard in the halls of Congress and the White House. After the Nazis heard the sounds of silence a decade earlier as permission to commit genocide against Jews, America led the world in a campaign to combat the societal cancer of anti-Semitism. Like biological cancers, if they are left untreated and unmonitored, the diseases of anti-Semitism and racism often reoccur in even more virulent modes.
The lesson of the Holocaust and the birth of the State of Israel is that there are no innocent bystanders to acts of hatred and bigotry.
The confirmation of Michael Pompeo as our new secretary of state gives you and me both an opportunity and a responsibility to have an impact upon American response to the growing threats posed by the rise in anti-Semitism worldwide as well as across America. I am therefore using this monthly column to share with you a letter that I recently sent to Secretary of State Pompeo. I ask each of you to take action in one of the following ways:
1. Sign on to the American Jewish Committee statement calling for filling the position of special envoy to combat and monitor anti-Semitism by going to www.global.ajc.org and adding your name to their petition effort.
2. Write your own letter to Secretary Pompeo.
3. Post this call to action on social media.
4. Reach out to your congressional representatives and ask them to join in this effort to lobby Secretary Pompeo to fill the State Department position.
You can address the hardcopy letter to Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, Department of State, 2201 C Street NW, Washington DC 20521, or you can send email through the official website, www.state.gov/secretary/2018
Here is the text of the letter I sent to Secretary of State Pompeo:
Dear Secretary Pompeo,
Congratulations on your confirmation as the 70th Secretary of State of the United States of America. You are assuming your office at a time of great danger for our nation and the world. Among these dangers is the dramatic rise in anti-Semitism. I am therefore writing to you today, Secretary Pompeo, to ask you to speedily fill the now vacant position of Special Envoy to Combat and Monitor Anti-Semitism.
Two weeks ago, during your hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, you said that one of your priorities will be to fill the large number of diplomatic posts in the Department of State that currently are vacant. The Special Envoy to Combat and Monitor Anti-Semitism is of utmost importance among them, particularly today given the precipitous rise in anti-Semitism during the past year.
The responsibilities of the Special Envoy are defined by the U.S. Department of State Global Anti-Semitism Review Act of 2004. This act passed by an overwhelming bi-partisan vote in Congress, has served in both Republican and Democratic Administrations as a deterrent to over anti-Semitism around the world. Since its creation in 2004, individuals holding ambassador status have headed the Office of the Special Envoy. Under their direction during both Democratic and Republican administrations, the Office to Combat and Monitor Anti-Semitism worked tirelessly to both (a) monitor and address anti-Semitism around the world and (b) hold other nations responsible for doing the same. Data collected by the United States government and outside organizations demonstrate that anti-Semitic activity and incidents actually declined from 2004 through 2016.
The post of Special Envoy to Combat and Monitor Anti-Semitism has remained vacant since July 2017, leaving the vital task of monitoring and fighting against the scourge of aggressive and non-aggressive anti-Semitic activity solely to outside agencies during a year of virulent anti-Semitic activity in the United States and abroad. The urgent need to fill the position of Special Envoy is underscored by the recent laws passed in Poland and Lithuania, denying their involvement in the Holocaust. These policies both seek to rewrite history and evoke malice toward the Jewish people. This is but one example. Secretary of State Pompeo, by speedily filling the position of the Special Envoy to Combat and Monitor Anti-Semitism, you will be making it clear to the world that America stands firm against all forms of racial and religious bigotry, including anti-Semitism.
Again, I congratulate you on your appointment and I thank you for taking on the awesome responsibilities of Secretary of State in these difficult days. I look forward to hearing soon of your nomination for Special Envoy to Combat and Monitor Anti-Semitism.
Rabbi Neal I Borovitz
Rabbi Emeritus, Temple Avodat Shalom River Edge NJ
National Vice Chair, Jewish Council for Public Affairs