Trump yet to appoint traditional Jewish envoys amid antisemitism crisis

The administration has, for two years, declined to appoint traditional envoys to the fight against antisemitism here and around the globe, despite calls from Jewish organizations to do so.

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November 5, 2018 22:25
2 minute read.
Trump yet to appoint traditional Jewish envoys amid antisemitism crisis

U.S. President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump stand with Rabbi Jeffrey Myers as they place stones at a makeshift memorial outside the Tree of Life synagogue in the wake of the shooting at the synagogue where 11 people were killed and six people were wounded in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, . (photo credit: KEVIN LAMARQUE/REUTERS)

 
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WASHINGTON -- In the wake of a mass shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, last weekend, White House officials debated who they should send to the grief-stricken town as a representative of the administration.

Their choice was not obvious. The administration has, for two years, declined to appoint traditional envoys to the fight against antisemitism here and around the globe, despite calls from Jewish organizations and a bipartisan group in Congress to do so.

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US President Donald Trump has tapped neither a White House Jewish liaison, a post that has been responsible for communicating with the American Jewish community since the 1970s, nor a special envoy at the State Department to monitor and combat antisemitism, a congressionally-mandated position devoted to the fight against antisemitism overseas.

Administration officials instead chose to send Jason Greenblatt, the president's chief envoy for international negotiations, who– while an observant Orthodox Jew and an adviser on Jewish world issues to Trump during the campaign– has neither studied the issue nor spent his time at the White House engaging in outreach with the wider diaspora community.

White House officials tell The Jerusalem Post that in lieu of a formal liaison the president relies on decades-old relationships with Greenblatt and other close advisers, such as his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, for guidance on Israel policy and Jewish world concerns.

These figures have ties with the quarter of American Jews who align with Trump’s politics, according to a poll released last month by the Jewish Electorate Institute, which found that 74% of the community would not vote for the president under any circumstances.
That same poll found that 70% of the community disapproves of the president’s handling of a spike in antisemitism worldwide.

And the administration also looks at Israeli officials as representatives of the worldwide Jewish community – an approach that irked American Jews on social media this week, as they saw Israeli Ambassador to the US Ron Dermer welcoming Trump to the scene of the Pittsburgh crime as if he were some sort of envoy for the greater Jewish world.

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While the White House position is not likely to be filled, active discussion continues at the State Department on an antisemitism envoy. A leading candidate for the position – George Klein, a fellow real-estate magnate from New York and a founder of the Republican Jewish Coalition – was on the verge of being named when he withdrew himself from consideration over the summer.

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