Senate advances nomination of Deborah Lipstadt as antisemitism envoy


Jacob Kornbluh, The Forward

This story was originally published on March 29, by the Forward. Sign up here to get the latest stories from the Forward delivered to you each morning.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved the nomination of Deborah E. Lipstadt to be the State Department’s envoy to combat and monitor antisemitism by a bipartisan 13-9 vote after a long-delayed process.

Two Republicans Senators, Mitt Romney from Utah and Marco Rubio from Florida, voted in favor of Lipstadt in the 22-member committee.

If her nomination is confirmed by the full Senate, the job will be hers.


The special envoy’s office was established by the Global Anti-Semitism Review Act of 2004 and largely focuses on global antisemitism. Lipstadt, one of the world’s most respected historians of the Holocaust who teaches at Emory University in Atlanta, and was nominated by President Joe Biden in July. The position requires Senate confirmation because Congress elevated it to the rank of an ambassador last year.

Her confirmation was upheld for months by Sen. Ron Johnson, a Republican from Wisconsin, over a tweet in which Lipstadt accused the senator of white supremacy for a comment he made after the Jan. 6 riot. During a contentious hearing last month, Lipstadt expressed regret for the tweet, saying it was not meant as a personal or political attack. But Johnson nonetheless indicated he would try to foil her nomination, and blocked the committee from voting on it earlier this month.

The vote was then rescheduled for last Tuesday. But Sen. Bob Menendez, chairman of the committee, postponed it for this week because several Democrats did not make the meeting and the Republican members were expected to oppose it.

The special envoy’s office, which is a part of the office of religion and global affairs, was established in 2006 after the bipartisan passage of the Global Anti-Semitism Review Act of 2004.

Lipstadt became well-known outside of academic circles in the 1990s when she won a libel lawsuit in Britain against a Holocaust denier who had sued her for defamation. The case was the subject of the film “Denial,” in which she is portrayed by Rachel Weisz.

The Biden administration appointed Aaron Keyak, a former House staffer and consultant, as Lipstadt’s deputy last November. His position did not require Senate confirmation.

Jewish American groups applauded the vote.

A full Senate vote on Lipstadt’s nomination is expected in the coming weeks.