After eight months of rancor and delays, the Senate needed only a simple vote on March 30 to confirm Deborah Lipstadt as the U.S. Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism.
As he introduced the vote, Georgia Democrat Jon Ossoff spoke in the Senate chamber about his great-grandparents, Israel and Annie, who fled antisemitism in Eastern Europe and emigrated to America. “And right now as we speak, the scourge of anti-Semitism is rising again in this country and around the world,” Ossoff said. “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.”
There were no dissenting voices, and with that unanimous vote the Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish History and Holocaust Studies in Emory University’s Tam Institute for Jewish Studies and religion department became Madam Ambassador. The 75-year-old Lipstadt, who came to Emory in 1993, will take a leave of absence as she takes up a diplomatic portfolio dealing with antisemitism outside of the United States.
Congress established the position in 2004. Senate confirmation was required because the post has been elevated to ambassadorial status. Prior to Lipstadt, the envoy was appointed as part of the State Department Office of Religion and Global Affairs.
Lipstadt is the second woman from Atlanta’s Jewish community confirmed this year for an ambassadorial post. Michèle Taylor received Senate approval in February and now serves as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Human Rights Council, based in Geneva, Switzerland.
In a statement to the AJT, Taylor said: “As Secretary of State Antony Blinken has pointed out ‘antisemitism is not a relic of the past. We must be relentless in standing up and rejecting antisemitism.’ The confirmation of Deborah Lipstadt as our next Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism is a demonstration of the strong commitment of the U.S. government to lead in confronting and defeating the scourge of antisemitism at home and around the world. I have known Deborah for a long time and have seen firsthand how she has devoted her life to this task; there is no one more qualified to lead our efforts. I am also pleased that a fellow Atlantan will be our ally at the Human Rights Council and elsewhere in the relentless fight against antisemitism.”
Rabbi Adam Starr of Congregation Ohr HaTorah said on Facebook: “Mazal Tov to my dear congregant, teacher and friend Dr. Deborah E. Lipstadt on her confirmation to be United States Special Envoy for Monitoring and Combating anti-Semitism. This platform to fight Antisemitism worldwide is so desperately needed. May God grant you wisdom and discernment as you serve on behalf of the United States and the Jewish people fighting the world’s oldest form of hatred.”
In a newsletter, Eric Robbins, president and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta, called Lipstadt “our hometown heroine,” citing her scholarship at Emory and her renowned fight against Holocaust denial. “But more than this, Deborah is an active member of our Jewish community, blessing us with the opportunity to fully appreciate all her gifts. She is a meticulous historian, a passionate teacher, and a fearless advocate for the Jewish people,” Robbins said.
As of this writing, Lipstadt has not issued a statement about the Senate confirmation, but she did comment on Facebook after an April 3 meeting in Atlanta with a group of cadets and midshipmen from the U.S. Military Academy West Point, the United States Naval Academy, the United States Coast Guard Academy, The Citadel, the Massachusetts Maritime Academy, Norwich University, and Texas A&M University. “What an impressive group of young men and women. I thanked them for their service and then, . . . they thanked me for mine. It took a minute for the latter to register,” she said.
Lipstadt also received congratulations on Twitter — “We need you!!!” — from Noa Tishby, an Israeli actress and activist living in the United States, whom Israeli media report will be appointed by Foreign Minister Yair Lapid to be a special envoy to combat antisemitism. Tishby is author of “Israel: A Simple Guide to the Most Misunderstood Country on Earth.”
The Senate vote came eight months to the day after President Joe Biden nominated her last July 30. Months of delay ensued, as Republicans — Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson, in particular — objected to Lipstadt’s social media posts. Johnson, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, placed a “hold” on the nomination because of a Twitter post Lipstadt published about him.
On March 14, 2021, she posted an article about a statement by Johnson, that he would have been more concerned about the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol if the mob had been made up of “Black Lives Matter and antifa protesters” rather than supporters of then-President Donald Trump.
Lipstadt’s comment said of Johnson’s statement, “This is white supremacy/nationalism. Pure and simple.”
Jewish groups renewed their push for Lipstadt’s confirmation in the wake of the Jan. 15 incident in which a gunman held a rabbi and three congregants hostage inside a Colleyville, Texas, synagogue.
When Lipstadt finally received a confirmation hearing before the Foreign Relations Committee on Feb. 8, she acknowledged that “sometimes I have not been as nuanced in my tweets as I like” and that she has “been exceptionally critical of members of the Democratic Party, of people on the end of the spectrum, political spectrum, where I place myself.”
Johnson accepted Lipstadt’s apology, but then told her, “I think that somebody who has had a 30-year professional career ought to know better . . . I simply cannot support your nomination . . . You’re simply not qualified for it.”
The committee voted 12-9 with two Republicans joining 11 Democrats and sent the nomination to the full Senate.
When she was nominated, Lipstadt said, “I will miss one thing: Being in the classroom with my Emory students.”
- Dave Schechter
- Emory University
- Deborah Lipstadt
- U.S. Senate
- Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism
- Georgia Democrat Jon Ossoff
- Eastern Europe
- Modern Jewish History and Holocaust Studies
- Emory’s Tam Institute for Jewish Studies
- rabbi adam starr
- Congregation Ohr HaTorah
- Michele Taylor
- United Nations Human Rights Council