Entire U.S. Senate Calls on Trump to Increase Support for Jewish Communities

All but three Senators sign letter to Trump administration officials voicing concern that if threats are not treated, lives could be at risk.

U.S. President Donald Trump walks towards Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Friday, March 3, 2017.
Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg

WASHINGTON - In a rare display of bipartisan cooperation, all U.S. Senators have joined forces to call on the Trump administration to offer support and assistance to the U.S. Jewish community in light of recent anti-Semitic attacks and incidents across the country.

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Some 97 senators sent a letter on Tuesday to a number of senior officials in the Trump administration, including their former colleague Attorney General Jeff Sessions, FBI director James Comey and Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly.

The letter, first reported on Politico, calls on these officials and their agencies to contact Jewish institutions across the U.S. that have received threats or have been vandalized in recent months to offer assistance and work with them to "enhance security measures and improve preparedness."

A Jewish man looks at vandalized tombstones at Mount Carmel Cemetery February 27, 2017 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Mark Makela/AFP

It also states that there have been close to 100 incidents of bomb threats against Jewish institutions over a relatively short period of time.

The letter also expresses the concern that if these threats are not treated forcefully and the perpetrators not deterred, lives could be put at risk. According Politico's report on Tuesday morning, only three Senators have yet to sign on to the letter – all of them Republicans: Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah). All three voiced their support for its content.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) signed the letter, and two other Republicans – Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) – were among its initiators, together with Sens. Gary Peters (D-MI) and Bill Nelson (D-FL).

On Monday, Haaretz reported on a different letter, circulating on Capitol Hill, calling on the Trump administration not to cut or weaken the State Department post of "special envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism." The letter was initiated in light of recent reports that the Trump administration was considering to not appoint a new envoy to this position, as part of attempts to decrease budget spending at the State Department.

A draft of the bipartisan letter, obtained by Haaretz, states that:

"[W]e view U.S. leadership on combating anti-Semitism and promoting human rights as pivotal components of American diplomacy and foreign policy. 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. As Members of Congress devoted to the protection of vulnerable minorities, we urge you to support resources for this crucial office and prioritize this presidential appointment. Such actions will help  ensure that the U.S. continues to play an indispensable leadership role in promoting global tolerance, pluralism, and human rights."

The original draft sent to members of the House for consideration last week was signed by six members of the bipartisan task force on anti-Semitism: Reps. Ted Deutch (D-Fla.), Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.),Marc Veasey (D-Texas), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) and Christopher Smith (R-N.J.). Two other Republican members of the taskforce – Reps. Kay Granger (R-Texas) and Peter Roskam (R-Ill.) – were not signed on the email urging House members to join, but a spokesperson for Rep. Roskam told Haaretz that he would support the letter.

One Democratic staffer involved in the process told Haaretz that the number of Republicans who will support the letter "will be a test" to the party's ability to speak out on the issue of anti-Semitism, even when that means being at possible odds with the Trump administration. When Democrats tried in late January to pass a resolution in the House reaffirming the Jewish aspect of the Holocaust, the staffer added, Republicans blocked it since it was seen as a rebuke to Trump's Holocaust Remembrance Day statement that omitted any reference to Jews.