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Emory University professor, historian to combat antisemitism nationwide

Deborah Lipstadt has been confirmed as the Biden Administration's special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism.
Credit: AP
Deborah E. Lipstadt, nominated to be Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, with the rank of Ambassador, speaks during a Senate Foreign Relations hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2022. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

WASHINGTON, D.C., USA — After spending decades crafting her expertise in modern Jewish history, an Emory University professor will now help lead the nation's efforts to combat antisemitism as part of the Biden administration.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Senate confirmed Deborah Lipstadt, President Biden's nominee for special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism. She will have the rank of an ambassador.

It was a confirmation months in the making and delayed by opposition from Republicans following the Jan. 6 Capitol riots last year and contentious social media post made by Lipstadt. Biden announced her nomination in July 2021.

U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff, Georgia's first Jewish senator, pushed for her confirmation Wednesday morning, delivering an impassioned speech on the Senate floor.

"It is time for the Senate at long last to confirm this nominee to fight antisemitism around the world on behalf of the United States -- standing up for those values," he said.

Lipstadt currently serves as the Dorot professor of modern Jewish history and Holocaust Studies at Emory's Department of Religion. She created the Institute for Jewish Students and was its first director. She gained notoriety for her libel trial in London against David Irving, who sued her for calling him a Holocaust denier. She won the case.

Ossoff said beyond her decades of study, she is an advocate. He emphasized the importance of appointing the high-profile historian of Jewish studies as U.S. envoy, adding how antisemitism has personally affected his family.

"And Annie and Israel, my great grandparents, they got out of Europe. Many of my family did not, Madam President, and they perished in the Holocaust," he said. "This isn't ancient history -- this is recent history. And right now, as we speak, the scourge of antisemitism is rising again in this country and around the world."

Ossoff introduced the vote on the Senate floor asking lawmakers to act.

"If we mean the words 'never again' then at long last, Madam President, let's confirm Deborah Lipstadt to fight antisemitism on behalf of the United States," he said.

The Senate unanimously confirmed Biden's nominee.

The Anti-Defamation League, which tracks cases of anti-Jewish vandalism, harassment and assault, reported there were 12,348 incidents of antisemitism between 2020 and 2021. Lipstadt, whose work also addresses Holocaust deniers and their claims, runs the website hdot.org debunking statements. 

As an envoy, Lipstadt would address antisemitism abroad and advise how to handle extremism in the U.S.