Clinton seeks Jewish community help in freeing Alan Gross from Cuba
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Following is the transcript of remarks by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at a reception for Hannah Rosenthal, the special envoy to combat worldwide anti-Semitism.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I don’t think I need to say a word. (Laughter.) It is such a great pleasure for me to welcome all of you here to the eighth floor of the State Department, to the Ben Franklin Room, for this wonderful occasion to really honor our special envoy, a friend, a longtime public servant, a prominent activist, someone who has everywhere she’s gone and everything she’s done not only been extremely effective but have left people smiling and happier than before she arrived. And that’s not always easy, but that is one of Hannah’s great gifts.
I want to welcome each and every one of you, and I particularly thank the members of Congress who are here. I thank you, Eliot Engel and Jan Schakowsky and there may be others here as well, but I am so grateful for your stalwart support on this mission to monitor and combat anti-Semitism. I welcome, of course, Hanna’s daughters Shira and Francie, and her entire family. I know how much you have meant to her over the years as well.
But I did want to echo what Hannah said about one member in particular who is not here, her father, the late Rabbi Frank Rosenthal. And Frank Rosenthal is here in spirit and very proud of what Hannah is doing.
I also wanted to acknowledge Judy Gross and her family. Is Judy here? Did Judy make it? Judy? Judy? Judy, thank you. Judy’s husband, Alan Gross, has been held in a Cuban jail for the last seven months without being charged with any crime – because he did not commit any crime. He was in Cuba as a humanitarian and development worker and, in fact, was assisting the small Jewish community in Havana that feels very cut off from the world, and Alan was providing information and technology that would assist this community to be better connected. Our government works every single day through every channel for his release and safe return home. But I am really making an appeal to the active Jewish community here in our country to join this cause, and I hope you will have a chance to meet Judy and her sister Gwen and offer them your support, because this family deserves to be reunited and each and every one of us should do everything we can to make it clear to the Cuban Government that Alan Gross needs to come home.
Now, I have known Hannah for more than 20 years and we have worked over those 20 years on issues that are near and dear to both of us. And I can say from firsthand experience, even as well as she talks – and you just heard that – she does more than talk the talk. This is a woman who walks the walk. She is as good as her word. Whether she’s working on behalf of women’s rights or health care or promoting respect and tolerance for all people, she is truly a force for positive change and progress and is a wonderful partner.
Now, I should add that we have many things in common, Hannah and I, but this summer we are MOTBs – Mother of the Brides – together. (Laughter.) And I wish Shira the very best and congratulations and best wishes to all of you. If you can survive being an MOTB, being the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism seems like a relief. (Laughter.)
But when we think about how Hannah ended up doing this really important service, not only for the American Government and not even just for the American Jewish community, but really for the world, to make this mission important in places that may never have thought about it or who, frankly, don’t want to think about it. And there is a direct line from Hanna’s father, because Rabbi Rosenthal was one of tens of thousands of German Jews arrested, imprisoned at Buchenwald for almost a year –the only member of his family to survive – coming to the United States, as so many Holocaust survivors and victims did, to seek a new life for himself, and then to build that life for his daughter and his granddaughters.
So for Hannah, working to end anti-Semitism is not an item on her resume or a good project. This is personal. It is literally in the DNA of this woman and it is grounded in the reality of the Holocaust. It is built on persistent faith, passed on from her father, and it is rooted in the conviction that the world can be a better place, that we all are to be repairers of the breach and we never get the job done, but it is incumbent upon each of us to do our part.
Now, in the nearly seven months that Hannah has been our special envoy, she has traveled the world devising new strategies and engaging governments and people to confront anti-Semitism and to promote tolerance and non-discrimination. In fact, a few weeks ago, she was in Kazakhstan with Farah Pandith, our Special Envoy to Muslim Communities. Together they launched the Acceptance, Respect and Tolerance Initiative to promote inter-faith and inter-ethnic understanding. And then Hannah and I, just about 10 days ago, were at the Community of Democracies Forum in Krakow and we also did tour the Schindler Factory Museum, which I highly recommend to you. Now, she will soon be heading back to Poland with a group of American imams under the auspices of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation and the Center for Interreligious Understanding.
Now, this level of dedication is not new. She has worked for years to build bridges between faiths and to bring people of different experiences together to take a stand against hatred and intolerance. The battle against hate never ends. It must go on. And as Hannah very eloquently pointed out, the forms of anti-Semitism continue to evolve. So you think you’ve got one in a box, and another, unfortunately, appears.
And in today’s world, there are too many places where we see fear of the other promoting gender-based violence, ethnic cleansing, religious extremism. And it requires us to be vigilant and proactive and to always be addressing the disturbing indications that anti-Semitism is on rise again.
President Obama and I are determined to curb anti-Semitism and to work to prevent the isolation of Israel internationally. So we are sending Hannah all over the world. (Laughter.) She’s available for bar and bat mitzvahs. (Laughter.) But seriously, she is pressing our case everywhere where two or more gather, it seems. And she needs your help. I look around. I see many friends here. I see people who have been active in Jewish organizations and civic organizations who understand the importance of this mission. I need your help, Hannah needs your help, because we constantly are looking for good new ideas to support, organizations that deserve the American Government’s backing. And we will continue to speak out against anti-Semitism, as we’ve done in the Human Rights Report and elsewhere, because we don’t want this to be a special effort, we want it to be integrated and rooted in everything we do so that it is part of the woof and warp of the work of the United States State Department and the United States Government.
I have been very struck by how much fear there is in the world today and Hannah rightly pointed to that: economic fear that often causes people to say and do things that are not in keeping with our values; fear that the modern world is going to disrupt the kind of family culture and experience that people have traditionally held onto. So we know we have a big challenge ahead of us, but I was thrilled when Hannah agreed to take this position because she is someone who is indefatigable. If you have hints on jet lag, share them with her – (laughter) – because she is on the move all the time. But she’s bringing a lot of creativity as well as commitment to this effort, and I could not be more grateful. So I’m hoping you will have a chance to see her, visit with her, encourage her, come up with ideas and suggestions for her, and know that we are constantly looking to do better at what we do every day. I see my friend Ben Cardin back there. I acknowledged members of the – anybody else before I – oh, Shelley Berkley.
PARTICIPANT: Jerry Nadler.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Jerry. Where’s Jerry?
PARTICIPANT: Right here.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Jerry, my New York friend. He and I walked a lot of miles together. Who else? Thank you for coming, congressmen. Thank you very much. Thank you all. But we need your help. This is not just to salute and thank Hannah for taking on this important task, but to stand with her, stand behind her, provide some guidance about what we can do and how we can do it better.
So let me end where I started, by thanking you all for being here and for thanking – and thanking Hannah for taking on this awesome responsibility at a time in our history and the world’s history when her voice is desperately needed. So join yours with her. Don’t forget Alan Gross. Please meet the Grosses because they need your help too. And let’s go out and recommit ourselves to ending anti-Semitism and bringing people into a better world together. Thank you all very much. (Applause.)
If you would, Hannah’s going to go down and stand here. Please come by and say hello to her. And she probably knows every one of you, plus your husband, your wife, your brother, your sister. But in the event she doesn’t, come and introduce yourself as well.
Preceding provided by U.S. State Department