The U.S. Senate passed a bill that would transform the U.S. anti-Semitism “envoy” into an “ambassador,” which some view as a step up, but it’s an “unfortunate” development according to former envoy Hannah Rosenthal of Madison.
“It delays the start of the new person, because he or she will have to be approved by the Senate’s schedule, and we know how long that can take,” Rosenthal said. “It does not change the work in any way. The Special Envoy is at the ambassador level but with a different title.”
“Antisemitism continues to rise at an alarming rate across the globe,” Sen. Jacky Rosen, D-Nev., who led sponsorship of the bipartisan bill, said in a statement Wednesday after the vote, which passed unanimously. “To equip the State Department to better address rising anti-Semitism, it is critical that we elevate the role of the special envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism to ambassador-at-large.”
The U.S. House of Representatives passed a similar bill last year, meaning it is almost certain to become law before the year ends and the current Congress lapses.
Rosenthal served as the special envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism from 2009 to 2012 and subsequently as president and CEO of Milwaukee Jewish Federation. She is now retired in Madison.
“What Congress should have been looking at changing is the budget, which was profoundly cut, as was the entire State Department, profoundly,” she said. “That would have been a meaningful change.”
The Orthodox Union said, “the Senate 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’.”
“This legislation provides the special envoy to monitor and combat anti-semitism with the tools, resources and gravitas necessary to apply much-needed pressure on foreign governments to create more tolerant societies as part of their relationships with the United States,” Hadassah said in a statement.
The position of anti-Semitism monitor was created by Congress in 2004.
Jewish Telegraphic Agency contributed to this story.