Following months of pressure from Jewish organizations to appoint an envoy to combat anti-Semitism, President Joe Biden on Friday officially named Deborah Lipstadt as the United States Special Envoy for Monitoring and Combating Anti-Semitism.
Lipstadt, 74, who grew up in Far Rockaway, New York, has been a professor of Modern Jewish History and Holocaust Studies at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia since 1993 and is the author of eight books related to the Holocaust and anti-Semitism.
One of her books, Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory, published in 1994, was challenged in court when British Holocaust denier David Irving sued Lipstadt for libel in 2000. After a protracted five-year court battle, Lipstadt won the case, later writing on the experience called History on Trial: My Day in Court with a Holocaust Denier, published in 2005. The story was also made into a Hollywood film called Denial.
In the same year that Lipstadt published her book on the trial, Irving was arrested by Austrian police on a 1989 warrant for two speeches denying the Holocaust he delivered in 1989. He pleaded guilty to the charge of “trivializing, grossly playing down and denying the Holocaust” and was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment.
Lipstadt’s book Anti-Semitism Here and Now, published in 2019, won the National Jewish Book Award.
Lipstadt was the founding director of the Institute for Jewish Studies and serves on the boards of the Jewish Forward Advisory Committee and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee.
In the past, she was a member of the State Department’s Advisory Committee on Religious Persecution Abroad and was a board member of Hillel International, the Defiant Requiem and the Covenant Foundation. She also served as a consultant and a fellow at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum.
Her appointment was met with great praise and enthusiasm by US Jewish organizations.
(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)