Evangelical hired by Jewish group to fight anti-Semitism gets backlash for her faith

Evangelical hired by Jewish group to fight anti-Semitism gets backlash for her faith

Holly Hufnagle's appointment to head AJC US anti-Semitism office comes under fire from some Jewish groups

AJC

One of the oldest Jewish advocacy groups in the United States has made a surprising choice to lead its fight against anti-Semitism: an Evangelical Christian woman.

Holly Huffnagle comes with rich experience: She has served as a “policy advisor to the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism at the U.S. State Department and a researcher in the Mandel Center of Advanced Holocaust Studies at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.,” according to her bio on the American Jewish Committee website. She has a master’s in “20th century Polish history and Jewish-Muslim relations before, during, and after the Holocaust. Most recently, she was a Scholar-in-Residence at Oxford University with the Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism and Policy.”

AJC’s own introduction on Twitter to Huffnagle shows that the appointment was deserved and intentional: “Antisemitism isn’t a problem for Jews to solve. It is a societal problem. Non-Jews must fight it.”

Huffnagle, 33, has spent her adult life combating anti-Semitism. But since her appointment as director of AJC’s U.S. Anti-Semitism department, she is also now defending her own faith.

If Not Now, “a movement led by young American Jews to end our community’s support for the occupation,” posted this on Twitter in response: “We welcome allies in the fight for Jewish safety — but it should be obvious that white Christians should not be leading Jewish organization’s advocacy against antisemitism. The AJC continues to show how out of touch it is with American Jews.”

Howard Dean, former Democratic National Committee (DNC) head and former presidential candidate Howard Dean, also criticized the Jewish organization for promoting a Christian.

“Unfortunately Christians don’t have much a reputation for anything but hate these days thanks to Franklin Graham and Jerry Falwell and other Trump friends,” Dean posted on Twitter. “AJC gets no points for this.”

The AJC defended Huffnagle: “.@GovHowardDean you have literally insulted billions of Christians of good will around the world, including @HHuffnagleAJC, who has dedicated her career to fighting anti-Semitism,” the Jewish group tweeted.

Huffnagle, who served in the State Department during Barack Obama’s presidency, said she is uniquely qualified for this position. 

“I’m really not partisan. And I would also argue that David Harris, our CEO, is Jewish. Yes, I’m coordinating our efforts on the ground with how we respond to domestic anti-Semitism and working the agency,” she told JNS. “It’s incredible that a Jewish organization is hiring non-Jews because anti-Semitism is mostly in itself by non-Jews. I think I have a better understanding, especially within Christianity, and I grew up as an evangelical Christian. I know that audience and my outreach can go even further.”

She joined AJC Los Angeles as assistant director in 2018.

In a wide-ranging interview with The Times of Israel, Huffnagle laid out her thoughts on anti-Semitism and how to combat it.

  • “I would argue that today anti-Semitism is more complex than at any other point in history because all of these factors don’t just exist separately, they also exist simultaneously online.”
  • “As someone who is not Jewish, it’s hard to personally figure out my own voice in this space because I’m not the direct recipient of anti-Semitism or bigotry. However, I want to help American Jewish communities be freer. We can’t necessarily solve the problem, but we can work to make people freer from prejudice.”
  • “The fight against anti-Semitism is often reactive and I think what is slipping through the cracks is long-term planning.”
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