Congressman Chris Smith (NJ-04), a leading human rights lawmaker in the U.S. Congress, was honored for his work on anti-Semitism and human rights by Anti-Defamation League (ADL) National Director Abraham H. Foxman at the Shana Amy Glass National Leadership Conference today at the Mayflower Hotel.
Foxman presented him with a large plaque that read "In Recognition of Your Steadfast Leadership in the Fight Against Anti-Semitism and for Human Rights Around the World." Foxman called Smith "one of the most ardent champions of human rights in the United States Congress."
"When anti-Semitic hate violence re-emerged in 2002 in communities across Europe, many Jews had nowhere to turn to report an anti-Semitic incident or to seek help. Chris Smith stood up again to be one of the most articulate and significant congressional voices of conscience," Foxman said. "Chris, the Anti-Defamation League is proud to honor you today for your indefatigable efforts to fight anti-Semitism and to defend the rights and human dignity of oppressed people everywhere." Click here to read Foxman's introduction.
"When political leaders fail to denounce anti-Semitic violence and slurs, the void is not only demoralizing to the victims but silence actually enables the wrongdoing. Silence by elected officials in particular conveys approval--or at least acquiescence--and can contribute to a climate of fear and a sense of vulnerability," said Smith, a senior member of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee and co-chair of the Bi-Partisan Anti-Semitism Task Force. "If we are to protect our children from the evil of anti-Semitism, we must re-educate ourselves and systematically educate our children. While that starts in our homes, the classroom must be the incubator of religious tolerance. It seems to me that only the most hardened racist can remain unmoved by Holocaust education and remembrance. Only the most crass, evil, and prejudiced among us can study the horrors of the Holocaust and remain unmoved." Click here to read Cong. Smith's remarks.
Smith was asked to give a short presentation entitled "Congressional Leadership Against Anti-Semitism and Hate." He addressed 500 members of ADL's leadership from around the country who gathered in Washington to hear from Members of Congress, administration officials and diplomats about the range of domestic and international policy issues of concern to the ADL. The conference provided a forum to examine international issues of concern to ADL as well as key civil rights and religious liberty issues at home such as U.S. policy in a tumultuous and changing Middle East Landscape, and law enforcement/community partnerships to fight extremism.
Last year, Smith was recognized by the American Jewish Committee with its 2011 Leadership Award for his work on anti-Semitism and other humanitarian issues. He was also honored by the New Jersey Jewish Federation as its 2011 "Man of Distinction' for his work on combating anti-Semitism and human trafficking.
Smith, who is Chairman of U.S. Helsinki Commission and an Executive Member of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, chaired the landmark 2002 hearing, "Escalating Anti-Semitic Violence in Europe." He has worked to put the issue of anti-Semitism at the top of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) agenda, which resulted in the OSCE adopting new norms for its 56 member states on fighting anti-Semitism in 2004, and a series of high-level conferences on combating anti-Semitism. Smith also spoke of how he chaired Congress's first hearings on anti-Semitism in the 1990s, and his first trip abroad as a member of Congress in 1982 to the former Soviet Union, where he fought for the release of Jewish "refuseniks."
Smith is the author of the provisions of the Global Anti-Semitism Review Act of 2004 that created the Office to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism within the U.S. State Department. He also introduced legislation, the Combating Anti-Semitism Act of 2010, H.R. 6277, that would strengthen the office and require it to report more frequently and in greater detail on anti-Semitism around the world.