Letter to Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State U.S. Department of State - Meng, Fitzpatrick, Manning, Weber, Veasey, Granger, Lieu and Smith Call for Update from State Department on its Investigation into Instance of Antisemitism at the Agency


Date: Oct. 14, 2022
Location: Washington, DC
Issues: Religion

Dear Secretary Blinken,

We write to express our continued concern over the antisemitic graffiti found at the State Department's headquarters in Washington, D.C. and at the U.S. Embassy in Bulgaria, as well as reports of State Department staff espousing antisemitic views online. We are grateful that immediately following these incidents one year ago, you clearly expressed that these egregious acts are not representative of the State Department or its values and called for an immediate investigation. As the Anti-Defamation League's (ADL) data shows, antisemitism and antisemitic incidents are on the rise in the United States and around the world. This past year alone, ADL's Audit of Antisemitic Incidents recorded 2,717 acts of assault, vandalism, and harassment in the United States, an average of more than seven incidents per day. Given this marked increase in antisemitic incidents, we urge you to update Congress on the status of your investigation into these incidents. 

Last year, it was discovered that U.S. Foreign Service Officer Fritz Berggren was running a website where he regularly disparaged Jews. In July 2021, over 70 State Department employees sent you a letter expressing their concern and feelings of insecurity at Mr. Bergman's continued employment. As they said, "Not only is his propagation of antisemitic ideas highly disturbing and offensive to Jewish and non-Jewish employees alike, but as Jewish employees, we feel his presence at the Department is threatening." Despite these pleas from your employees, and his outrageous antisemitism and bigotry, Mr. Berggren remains employed by the State Department. This is beyond alarming.

Additionally, a swastika was found carved in an elevator at the Harry S. Truman building last summer, and another was found painted on a window inside a secure area of the U.S. Embassy in Bulgaria earlier this year. Together, these incidents appear to paint a troubling picture within the State Department. 

We appreciate the steps taken immediately by you and President Biden following these incidents to make clear that antisemitism has no place in the State Department, in the Biden Administration, or anywhere in the world. However, more can and must be done to protect the Jewish community, and other religious minorities, at the State Department. We understand and are grateful that an internal review of these incidents is underway. We urge you to continue to investigate and address any and all incidents of antisemitism and hate within the Department. 

The Fiscal Year 2023 U.S. House of Representatives' State and Foreign Operations Appropriations report included language requiring the State Department to report to Congress on the status of the investigations into these incidents, including recommendations for how the Department can improve tolerance and non-discrimination among its staff. However, this issue is too urgent, and it cannot wait for the appropriations process to finish. Instead, it needs immediate attention.

We call on you to report back to Congress on the status of your investigation into these incidents, and on the general existence of antisemitism within the State Department. We also call on you to report on what your office plans to do to improve tolerance and non-discrimination, including working with organizations like the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) to institute targeted training and promote better understanding. State Department employees are our representatives to the world. We must ensure that hate, in all forms, is not present within the Department.

We stand ready to assist the State Department as you work to ensure that Jewish American employees are fully included, supported, and protected in government service.

Thank you for your attention to this matter.