September 29, 2004
Prominent Conservative and Orthodox rabbis are urging support for a proposed bill to have the U.S. monitor anti-Semitism around the world, which the State Department has been opposing.
The bill, known as the Global Anti-Semitism Awareness Act (H.R. 4230), has been introduced by Congressman Tom Lantos (D-Calif.). It would create an office within the State Department to monitor antisemitism around the world and issue an annual report. It has 34 sponsors.
Former U.S. Congressman Stephen Solarz and the David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies recently organized 108 prominent Americans to sign a letter to Secretary of State Powell, protesting the State Department’s opposition to the bill. The signatories included former vice-presidential nominee Jack Kemp, former U.S. ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick, former National Security Advisor Anthony Lake, singers Janis Ian and Peter Himmelman, comedian David Brenner, former State Department Legal Advisor Abraham Sofaer, writers Cynthia Ozick and Thane Rosenbaum, and leaders of four top Christian religious seminaries: the Union Theological Seminary, Yale Divinity School, Drew Theological Seminary and Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary. (Full text of the letter: www.WymanInstitute.org)
Prominent rabbis are now rallying in support of the Lantos legislation.
The Rabbinical Assembly, the national organization of 1,500 Conservative rabbis, has reported to its members that RA president Rabbi Perry Rank and social action chair Rabbi Leonard Gordon have sent a letter to Secretary Powell supporting the legislation. The RA called on its members to write to Secretary Powell, and to address the issue in their holiday sermons. The RA praised the Lantos bill as “a timely and appropriate response to the rising tide of anti-Semitism in Europe, the Middle East, and elsewhere.”
The RA noted that “our colleagues, David Golinkin and Jonathan Lipnick whose fathers along with our colleague, Moshe Sachs, spearheaded rabbinical students to raise public awareness of the Holocaust while at JTS in the 1940s, are in the forefront of encouraging passage of the Lantos legislation.” Rabbi Golinkin is president of the Conservative movement’s Jerusalem division, the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies, and Rabbi Lipnick is Rabbi in Residence at the Jewish Theological Seminary, in New York City
The Rabbinical Council of America, the national organization of Orthodox rabbis, has sent its members the full text of the Wyman-Solarz letter, together with a cover letter from Rabbi Dr. Haskel Lookstein, principal of the Ramaz school and one of the most prominent and influential rabbis in the United States. Rabbi Lookstein, who is the author of a book about American Jewry’s response to the Holocaust, wrote in his letter to RCA members: “We all know of the State Department’s failure to speak out against the persecution of Jews during the 1930s. I am dismayed to inform you that the State Department today is opposing a bill by U.S. Congressman Tom Lantos that would help monitor and combat antisemitism around the world…Please consider speaking about this issue from your pulpit during the upcoming holidays. It is vital that the Jewish community be kept fully informed about this issue and its important implications.”
The San Francisco Chronicle reported on September 22 that a key Republican congressman, Chris Smith of New Jersey, who previously supported a much weaker version of the antisemitism bill, has now endorsed the Lantos version. Smith is vice chairman of the House International Relations Committee. The Chronicle reported: “One key to advancing Lantos’ bill may have been the surprise intervention of the David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies. The Pennsylvania-based organization, named for a historian who has written about the West’s response to the Holocaust, organized an open letter to Powell signed by 104 prominent Americans…”