Protecting Heritage

Congress moves to protect Jewish cemeteries in Mideast, North Africa

Amendment introduced by Rep. Lee Zeldin expands existing mandate

Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY) speaks at the U.S. Institute of Peace in May, 2019. (Flickr)

The House Foreign Affairs Committee agreed Wednesday to expand the mandate of a U.S. commission to access cemeteries, monuments and historic buildings important to U.S. heritage in the Middle East and North Africa. The committee’s members voted to accept the amendment to an authorization bill for programs related to the State Department. 

Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY) introduced the amendment, which clarifies text governing the tasks of the U.S. Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad, a body founded in the 1980s to preserve cemeteries and other sites linked to American citizens who suffered in the Holocaust and under Communism, particularly in eastern and central Europe. 

The amendment mirrors a bill introduced by the New York congressman in April, which expands that mandate to include access to locations in the Middle East and North Africa, where Jews in particular were expelled in 1948 following the creation of the State of Israel.

“There are many countries beyond the current jurisdiction of the commission where Jews and [members of other] religions are facing a hostile government and other adverse realities where their heritage is at risk, from cemeteries to synagogues and churches and more,” Zeldin told The Jerusalem Post at the time. “There are issues where the foreign heritage of U.S. citizens needs to be better protected.”

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