WASHINGTON, D.C. — Building on an amendment he wrote in 2004 to create a Special Envoy to combat anti-Semitism, this week Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) successfully pushed enactment of his Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism Act that expands the authority of the office and elevates the Envoy to that of Ambassador-at-Large, granting the position added clout to fight the rise in worldwide anti-Semitism.
“My new law will raise the Special Envoy to the rank of Ambassador-at-large, a high-level position that will allow the Special Envoy to report directly to the Secretary of State,” Rep. Smith said. “The official rank of Ambassador comes with greater seniority and diplomatic access not only here in Washington, but equally important, overseas in dealing with foreign governments. In short, it gives the Special Envoy the clout required do the job more effectively.
“Anti-Semitism is on the rise in many countries around the globe over the past 10 years. We’ve seen members of the Jewish community harassed, intimidated, assaulted and even killed. We’ve seen sacred places like synagogues and graves desecrated. We’ve heard the use of anti-Semitic slurs and threats, and the open targeting of the State of Israel with what the great Soviet refusenik and former religious prisoner Natan Sharansky told me are the ‘three Ds’– demonization, double-standards and de-legitimization of Israel.
“With the rise of on-line anti-Semitism, hate abroad knows no borders and poisons our communities here at home. We need to integrate our efforts both in the United States and abroad to stop the hate and keep our communities safe,” said Smith, a founding member of both the House Anti-Semitism Caucus and the Inter-Parliamentary Task Force to Combat Online Antisemitism, which is comprised of legislative-branch members from Israel, the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia.
The Special Envoy ‘s mission is to combat discrimination and hatred toward Jews, and develop and implement foreign policy to fight anti-Semitism. Under Smith’s new law: the Special Envoy position would also:
- be the primary advisor to the U.S. government in monitoring and combating anti-Semitism;
- not be saddled with duties irrelevant to combating and anti-Semitism, nor “double-hatted” with other positions or responsibilities that distract from the central focus of anti-Semitism.
Smith was especially grateful to one of his bill’s the 87 co-sponsors, Congressman Brad Schneider (D-IL), for working to pass the bipartisan bill, as well as Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL), Jackie Rosen (D-NV) and Senator Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY), along with their staffs, for their hard work in securing passage on the Senate side, and numerous Jewish groups who fought hard for this legislation.
Rabbi Aaron Kotler, President and CEO of Beth Medrash Govoha, said, “Congressman Smith has been a world leader in the effort to combat anti-Semitism, keeping the spotlight on the scourge of global hate. In our troubled times, we need his leadership more than ever. Smith led the 2004 Congressional effort to create a U.S. Special Envoy to Combat Anti-Semitism. Now he has strengthened the position of Special Envoy by legislation that accords the Envoy ambassadorial rank. Good people of all faiths owe him a debt of thanks for helping keep racism at bay and for protecting civilized society.”
Nathan Diament, Executive Director for the Orthodox Union Advocacy Center, said, “The Jewish community is very grateful for Rep. Chris Smith’s leadership in getting this legislation enacted. Sadly, we have seen a surge of anti-Semitic incidents around the world in recent years. With the passage of this legislation, Congress is providing powerful new tools to the State Department to lead impactful international efforts to combat what has been aptly called ‘the world’s oldest form of hatred’ and roll back the tide of anti-Jewish hate.”
Chaplain Yaakov Wenger, of the National Chaplains Association, stated, “The National Chaplains Association applauds President Donald J. Trump for approving Congressman Chris Smith’s important bill which will help battle the scourge of anti-Semitism worldwide. Cong. Smith has been a staunch fighter of global hate and bigotry for decades, and true advocate for human rights. The president’s signing of the bill is a welcome step in battling divisiveness and hate.”
Rabbi Avi Schnall, director of the New Jersey office of Agudath Israel, said, “We are very grateful for Congressman Smith’s persistence with seeing and ensuring this that bill became law,” At a time when anti-Semitism is on an alarming increase, now more than ever we need the Special Envoy to have the stature to be able to combat and do whatever we can to fight anti-Semitism.
Lakewood community leaders Eli Tabak and Eli Liberman, who spearheaded Special Envoy Elan Carr’s historic visit to Lakewood in 2019, said, “Congressman Smith’s success in elevating the position of the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism to that of Ambassador is but the latest in a long and distinguished history of his efforts to lead the global fight against hate. We greatly appreciate his focus on rooting out anti-Semitism, and the need to address it publicly and forcefully. Seeing Congressman Smith take this initiative, especially during such tumultuous times is so important to all people of good will. We are grateful for his leadership and proud that this champion of human rights represents Lakewood.”
On two separate occasions, the House voted overwhelmingly to approve Smith’s new law to elevate the U.S. Envoy to Ambassador-at-Large, once in September 2018 and the second time in January 2019. Each time, the Senate stalled the bill despite widespread support from numerous organizations, including the Agudath Israel, Anti-Defamation League, B’nai B’rith International, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the American Jewish Committee, Hadassah, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, and the Jewish Federations of North America the Orthodox Union.
The Senate finally approved the bill on December 16, 2020 and it was signed by the President this week.