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Reform Movement Denounces State Department’s Decision to Unstaff Office Charged with Combatting Anti-Semitism

Reform Movement Denounces State Department’s Decision to Unstaff Office Charged with Combatting Anti-Semitism

For Immediate Release
June 23, 2017

Contact: Max Rosenblum
202.387.2800 | news@rac.org

Press Release from the Religious Action Center

WASHINGTON – In response to the State Department’s decision to unstaff the Office to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President of the Union for Reform Judaism and Rabbi David Saperstein, Senior Advisor for Policy and Strategy for the URJ and former U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, issued the following statement on behalf of the Union for Reform Judaism, Central Conference of American Rabbis and wider Reform Movement:

We are deeply concerned about the apparent decision to end the position of United States Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism at the Department of State.  Sec. Tillerson’s statements during his recent House Appropriations Committee testimony and the State Department statement reported by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency this week reflects a decision to end this vital post and disperse its staff.  We urge the President and Secretary to reverse that decision.

At exactly a moment when we see rising acts of anti-Semitism across the globe, whatever the actual intent, the clear impact of ending this position will send a signal that the Unites States is downgrading its efforts to combat anti-Semitism.  This cause was sufficiently important for the U.S. Congress to create this position as a matter of statute.  The clear congressional mandate for this position as an expression of our national opposition to anti-Jewish hatred globally should not be ignored.

The Reform Movement has worked closely with the prior Special Envoys in combatting anti-Semitism and can testify to the positive impact their work, travel, and presence has had in reassuring beleaguered Jewish communities facing growing anti-Semitic threats, in working in a sustained manner with other governments to be more forceful in responding to expressions of anti-Semitism in their nations, and in forging international cooperation in such efforts. The Special Envoy position supplemented the ongoing diplomatic efforts of our embassies and our human rights division, assuring that in our interactions with foreign governments this was not just one of many issues discussed, but there would be someone travelling on our behalf to engage in much deeper and more detailed discussions on combatting anti-Semitism.  One of us had the opportunity to work daily with the last special envoy, Ira Forman, and saw the Special Envoy’s effectiveness in such tasks as well as the impact his ongoing engagement with other key staff at the State Department had in ensuring this issue would remain a priority.

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The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union for Reform Judaism, whose nearly 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, whose membership includes more than 2,000 Reform rabbis. Visit www.rac.org for more.

Published: 06/23/2017

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