Deborah Lipstadt, and older woman with red hair, stands outside amid trees
Deborah Lipstadt in 2019 (Photo/Kay Hinton)

Deborah Lipstadt confirmed as antisemitism monitor in late-night Senate vote

After an eight-month delay, noted antisemitism scholar Deborah Lipstadt was confirmed by the U.S. Senate to be special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism, in a late-night voice vote Wednesday.

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.

Georgia Sen. Jon Ossoff introduced the motion on behalf of Lipstadt who lives in his state. She teaches at Emory University, located in Atlanta.

Ossoff, who is Jewish, mentioned his great grandparents, Israel and Annie, who fled Eastern Europe because of antisemitism in the 1910s.

“If we mean the words ‘Never Again’ then let’s confirm Deborah Lipstadt to fight antisemitism on behalf of the United States.”

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.

U.S. 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.

“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.

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,

Biden nominated Lipstadt to lead the State Department’s office for combating antisemitism in July. Jewish group across the spectrum hailed the nomination. Lipstadt, an Emory University professor, has taught about antisemitism for 40 years and published numerous books on the subject. Last year, she served as an expert witness in the Charlottesville, Virginia, civil suit against the organizers of a demonstration four years earlier that turned deadly.

But Lipstadt’s nomination languished after Sen. Ron Johnson, a Wisconsin Republican, objected to her nomination. 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.

Yonat Shimron
Yonat Shimron

Yonat Shimron is a national reporter and senior editor at the Religion News Service.


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