Writing in a blog post the following day, Forman cited specific examples that moved the department to convene the meeting. Specifically, the looting of Jewish-owned stores and protestors lobbing a Molotov cocktail at a synagogue in Paris; a group of teenagers in Sydney, Australia, boarding a school bus for a Jewish primary school and shouting anti-Semitic epithets; and various other incidents just this past summer.
“These and other incidents are of deep concern to the United States government,” wrote Forman, adding that Kerry “emphasized that monitoring and combatting anti-Semitism is a global State Department priority, and reaffirmed our commitment to speaking out against this scourge whenever and wherever it exists.
“For Secretary Kerry, whose own grandparents came to the United States escaping anti-Semitism in what is today the Czech Republic – and whose own ancestors who stayed behind lost their lives in the Holocaust – this cause is very personal.”
Prior to his appointment as a special envoy, Forman was the executive director of the National Jewish Democratic Council from 1996 until 2010, and served as the Jewish Outreach Director for President Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign.
His current post – which is uniquely tasked to represent U.S. policy on anti-Semitism globally – was created as part of the Global Anti-Semitism Review Act of 2004.
Some of the other high level State Department officials participating in the meeting included Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roberta Jacobson and Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for European Affairs Paul Jones.
With time running out for survivors of the Holocaust and Nazi-era atrocities in Europe, the French government is taking steps to return some 2,000 pieces of art stolen 70 years ago.
According to Washington Jewish Week, officials from the French National Assembly visited B'nai B'rith International headquarters in Washington to discuss ways to restore looted artifacts to their rightful owners. This is critical dialogue and marks a policy shift for France, which has been criticized for its reluctance to return the art.
Read the highlights from the wide-ranging article, below:
The French officials met with representatives of B’nai B’rith International in the District and visited New York State’s Department of Finance, two very different organizations that share the same expertise sought by the French lawmakers: restoring stolen Nazi art to its rightful owners.
Returning the art to its rightful owners is no easy task, said Eric Fusfield, director of legislative affairs for B’nai B’rith International.
“Most survivors are deceased now. We’re really talking about descendants now and most don’t have documentation. They have anecdotes and might not be able to name a specific work. That’s part of the challenge.”
But with B’nai B’rith, the group talked about specifics, according to Gerard Leval, the organization’s general counsel, who took part in the meeting.
“It was good to hear people who sincerely want to do the right thing,” he said. “Almost nothing during the Holocaust was random [including the theft of art]. We said, ‘Go to your documents – when it was taken, from whom it was taken, and from where it was taken.’ ”
The B’nai B’rith group suggested that the French advertise in publications with Jewish readers in the United States and Argentina, Leval said. They also pointed out that with anti-Semitism and xenophobia flaring up in France, the government could score propaganda points by showing that it “was doing its very best in areas where it can help the Jewish population,” he added.
Fusfield isn’t ready to declare victory yet. He recalled the March ceremony in Paris where the French culture minister returned three looted works to the grandchildren of the original owners. The restitution coincided with the French premiere of the George Clooney movieMonuments Men, about GIs working to recover looted art.
“So that’s three,” Fusfield said.
“Hollande has open the doors and that’s great,” Soltes said. “But there is other stuff, French decorative arts – tables, chairs, Louis XIV, XV, XVI owned by Jewish families. The French have stonewalled on them. You can see how interestingly self-contradictory this whole effort can be.”
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