WASHINGTON - Aaron Keyak has been tapped to serve as the US deputy envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism. Deborah Lipstadt, who was nominated by Biden to serve as antisemitism envoy, is still awaiting her confirmation vote. Keyak, meanwhile, is expected to start his role on Monday and serve as an acting envoy, since his position does not require Senate confirmation.
If Lipstadt is confirmed, Keyak will become her deputy. The Forward first reported on Keyak’s appointment.
Lipstadt’s nomination has been stalled in the past few weeks, and it is still unclear when the Senate will debate and vote to confirm her. Republican James Risch of Idaho, ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told Jewish Insider this past week that he was concerned about previous Lipstadt tweets in which she was critical of Republican lawmakers.
During Biden’s 2020 presidential campaign, Keyak served as the point person for Jewish outreach. He is a longtime political strategist and consultant. Before joining Biden’s campaign, he worked as the managing partner and co-founder of Bluelight Strategies, a Washington-based consulting firm. He previously served as the communications director for Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-New York) and as the communications director and top Middle East adviser for former Rep. Steve Rothman (D-New Jersey).
During the 2012 presidential election, he headed the campaign media “Hub,” a rapid-response research and media outreach team that promoted then-president Barack Obama’s message regarding foreign-policy issues to the Jewish community.
Matt Brooks, executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, congratulated Keyak on Twitter, writing it was a “great pick by the Biden administration.”
Abba Cohen, Washington Director for Agudath Israel of America, wished Keyak luck as well.
“I look forward to working with you and with Deborah Lipstadt on this most vital issue – antisemitism – during these most ominous times,” he tweeted. “I know you will be busy, with a long agenda, unfortunately.”
Lipstadt replied to Cohen and tweeted, “Let’s hope that the waiting will end soon. With Aaron Keyak in place, things may soon be looking up.”
Last week, representatives from 21 US Jewish organizations sent a letter to members of the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Foreign Relations Committee urging the confirmation of Lipstadt.
“We write to urge you to swiftly fill the position of US Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism by considering the current nominee,” the letter reads. Among the groups that signed the letter were the Jewish Federations of North America, the World Jewish Congress and the Anti-Defamation League.
“When Deborah is – God willing – Senate confirmed, Aaron will make a terrific compliment,” said Steve Rabinowitz, Keyak’s longtime business partner at BlueLight Strategies. “But in the meantime, he’ll also be a great acting US special envoy in his own right for as long as it takes.”