Interfaith Letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson

June 28, 2017

The Honorable Rex Tillerson
Secretary of State
The State Department
Washington, D.C.

Dear Secretary Tillerson:

The undersigned faith leaders write to urge you to fill the position of Special Envoy for Monitoring and Combatting Anti-Semitism.

During your June 14 testimony before the State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee, you described general concerns about designated envoys, representatives, and ambassadors, and responded to a specific question from Rep. Grace Meng about the timing of appointing this Special Envoy, with “ I have not made a decision about this particular special envoy.”

We appreciate the sentiment you expressed that all diplomats should feel responsible for combating anti-Semitism. However, concerns about anti-Semitism do not always make it on to the agenda of diplomatic meetings, especially when many other legitimate and pressing issues require attention. By contrast, when the Special Envoy meets with foreign officials, anti-Semitism is the agenda.

As you know, the Global Anti-Semitism Review Act of 2004 (P.L. 108-332) mandates that the Secretary of State “shall establish within the Department of State an Office to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism” with a Special Envoy as head of the office. The Office has primary reporting responsibility for monitoring and combating acts of anti-Semitism and anti-Semitic incitement abroad, as well as coordinating responsibility for the preparation of relevant sections of the Department’s annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices.

A March 10th, 2017 letter to you from a bipartisan group of 167 Members of Congress emphasized the important responsibility of the United States as the global leader in the fight against anti-Semitism and in promoting human rights. The Members made the connection between prioritizing this Presidential appointment and continuing our “indispensable leadership role in promoting global tolerance, pluralism, and human rights.” We share that view.

As faith leaders who care deeply about combatting anti-Semitism, we know how critically important this Special Envoy role has been in representing our government abroad on a range of issues affecting the safety and welfare of Jewish communities.

We urge you to clarify your position and commit to filling this statutorily-mandated appointment of a Special Envoy for Monitoring and Combatting Anti-Semitism as soon as possible.

Thank you for your attention to this issue of significant importance.


Dr. Mehnaz Afridi
Director, Holocaust, Genocide & Interfaith Education Center
Manhattan College

Professor Akbar Ahmed
Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies
American University

Wael Alzayat
Executive Director

Dr. Philip Cunningham
Institute for Jewish-Catholic Relations of Saint Joseph's University

Timothy Cardinal Dolan
Archbishop of New York

Rabbi Mark Dratch
Executive Vice President
Rabbinical Council of America

Jonathan A. Greenblatt
CEO and National Director
Anti-Defamation League

Margo Gold
International President
The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism

Rev. Dr. Katharine Henderson
Auburn Seminary

Dr. Joel C. Hunter
Senior Pastor
Northland, A Church Distributed

Dr. Antonios Kireopoulos
Associate General Secretary - Faith & Order and Interfaith Relations
National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA

Sapreet Kaur
Executive Director
Sikh Coalition

Dr. Ruth Langer
Chair of the Council of Centers on Jewish-Christian Relations, and Associate Director of the Center for Christian-Jewish Learning, Boston College.

Kathryn M. Lohre
Office of the Presiding Bishop
Executive, Ecumenical & Inter-Religious Relations
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

The Rev. Margaret R. Rose
Ecumenical and Interreligious Deputy to the Presiding Bishop
The Episcopal Church

Heather Miller Rubens, Ph.D
Baltimore, MD.

Dr. Ronald A. Simkins
Professor of Theology
Director of the Kripke Center
Creighton University

Sandy Sorensen
Director, Washington Office
United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries

Dr. Sayyid M. Syeed,
National Director
Office for Interfaith & Community Alliances
Islamic Society of North America

Amanda Tyler
Executive Director
Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty

Rabbi Steven Wernick
Chief Executive Officer
United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism