A bipartisan group of House members has urged President Donald Trump not to eliminate a State Department ambassadorial position that deals with anti-Semitism.
In a letter released Monday, 167 members of the House of Representatives asked Trump to “maintain and prioritize” the appointment of a special envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism, a position established under President George W. Bush in 2004.
“During previous administrations, this office was crucial in documenting human rights abuses against Jewish communities abroad as well as developing and implementing policies designed to combat anti-Semitism,” the letter said. “The Office of the Special Envoy enables the U.S. to show the world its commitment to these ideals, particularly at a time when anti-Semitism is dangerously on the rise.”
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Reps. Eliot Engel, a Democrat from New York, and Chris Smith, a New Jersey Republican, led the signatories. Others signing the letter include Florida Republican Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Carlos Curbelo; Florida Democrats Charlie Crist, Alcee Hasting, Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Frederica Wilson; California Democrats Adam Schiff, Ami Bera, Judy Chu, Eric Swalwell, Zoe Lofgren, Grace Napolitano and Doris Matsui; Mike Bost, R-Ill.; and Kay Granger, R-Texas.
The letter follows a Bloomberg report last month that Trump was weighing doing away with the special envoy position as part of a plan to cut spending at some federal agencies in order to boost the Defense Department budget by $54 billion.
The letter also came on the heels of a letter last week that was signed by all 100 members of the U.S. Senate urging the Trump administration to address recent waves of bomb threats and vandalism against Jewish community centers and other Jewish institutions in this country.
“We are concerned that the number of incidents is accelerating and failure to address and deter these threats will place innocent people at risk and threaten the financial viability of JCCs, many of which are institutions in their communities,” the senators wrote. “Your departments can provide crucial assistance by helping JCCs, Jewish day schools and synagogues improve their physical security, deterring threats from being made, and investigating and prosecuting those making these threats or who may seek to act on these threats in the future.”
More than 160 Jewish institutions and organizations have received bomb threats in the last three months, according to statistics compiled by to the Anti-Defamation League, a civil rights organization dedicating to fighting anti-Semitism.
The spate of threats and incidents has raised public concern. A Quinnipiac University poll last week found that 70 percent of voters think that prejudice against Jewish people in the U.S. is a “very serious” or “somewhat serious” problem, up from 49 percent in a poll last month.
Trump, in his speech to Congress last month, denounced the recent spate of anti-Semitic incidents.
“Recent threats targeting Jewish community centers and vandalism of Jewish cemeteries, last week’s shooting in Kansas City, remind us that while we may be a nation divided on policies, we are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all its forms,” Trump said in his Feb. 28 speech.
Jonathan Greenblatt, the Anti-Defamation League’s CEO and national director, said he’d like to see Trump follow up with concrete action. The organization has called for the Justice Department to create a federal interagency task force to combat hate crimes.
“We have been pleased with the response by federal law enforcement, specifically the FBI, and encouraged by steps that the Department of Homeland Security is taking,” Greenblatt said. “We need to see more in order to insure that the federal government is supplying all its energies to addressing anti-Semitism and eradicating intolerance in the long term.”