By Jesse Victor
In July 2021, a swastika was found carved in an elevator near the Harry S Truman Office of the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism. This event prompted messages reminding the workforce to be relentless in standing up and rejecting such abhorrent acts of hate, especially in the Department of State’s own proverbial house.
“As this painfully reminds us, anti-Semitism isn’t a relic of the past,” said Secretary of State Antony Blinken in an email to employees. “It has no place in the United States, at the State Department, or anywhere else.”
While there are many positive reasons to establish an employee affinity group (EAG) like Jewish Americans and Friends in Foreign Affairs (JAFFA), the unfortunate reality is that JAFFA arose largely to combat antisemitism within the Department, one of its key goals. Following the lead of glifaa, GRACE, Mosaic, and other Department EAGs, JAFFA also aims to offer an institutional voice in advocating for the consideration of the Department’s Jewish employees’ religious and cultural needs and concerns. In the coming months, JAFFA plans to engage with fellow EAGs on diversity issues. JAFFA exists as a safe and welcoming space for Jewish American Department employees, employee family members, contractors, allies, and friends— both domestically and overseas—and provides a forum for Jewish colleagues to establish professional and personal relationships and to discuss common interests and concerns.
Formed initially from a simple conference call, JAFFA’s organization has quickly grown to more than 200 members. Though still a nascent group, they recently elected a Steering Committee to keep their momentum going. Tikkun Olam, which means “repairing the world” in Hebrew, is a significant inspiration for many Jews that applies much more widely than just to Judaism. The world clearly has its fair share of problems that require fixing, which is a big part of why Department employees do the work they do. JAFFA is grateful for the opportunity to do their part and encourages anyone interested in joining or supporting its efforts to send them an email.
Jesse Victor is a financial management officer at Embassy Tegucigalpa and a founding member of the Jewish Americans and Friends in Foreign Affairs Steering Committee.