Hannah Rosenthal was born in 1951. Her mother is a Holocaust survivor, her father a Reform rabbi. She holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin.
In 1992 and 1996, Rosenthal was a leader of the Wisconsin Clinton–Gore presidential campaigns. In 1995 she was appointed by the Clinton administration to serve as Midwest Regional Director for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
In 2001 Rosenthal opined that President Clinton’s controversial pardon of the infamous Marc Rich was properly “based on the legal merits.” Rich, whose wife had funneled immense amounts of money to Bill and Hillary Clinton as well as to the Democratic National Committee, was a fugitive oil broker who had illegally purchased oil from Iran during the American trade embargo — and who then proceeded to hide more than $100 million in profits by using dummy transactions in off-shore corporations. Rich later renounced his American citizenship and fled to Switzerland to avoid prosecution for 51 counts of racketeering, wire fraud, tax fraud, tax evasion, and the illegal oil transactions with Iran.
Rosenthal was Executive Director of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) from August 2000 to 2005. She also served a stint as Executive Director of the Chicago Foundation for Women, and as a board member of Americans for Peace Now. In 2005 she was named one of the “Forward Fifty,” a list of the most influential Jews in America as selected by The Forward newspaper.
In the 2008 presidential election season, Rosenthal supported and contributed to the Hillary Clinton campaign.
Today Rosenthal is Vice President for Community Relations for the nonprofit WPS Health Insurance Corporation. She also serves on the advisory council of J Street and the J Street Political Action Committee, entities that are consistently critical of Israeli policies.
Michael Goldfarb, former online editor for The Weekly Standard, writes that Rosenthal, who places most of the blame for the Mideast conflict squarely on Israel’s shoulders, believes it is important “to distinguish between the good progressive Jews who are not living on Palestinian land and the Israeli Jews who are committing daily atrocities in the name of colonialism and occupation.” [Those are Goldfarb’s words.]
On November 23, 2009, Rosenthal was sworn into office as the head of President Barack Obama’s Office to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism — a position popularly known as “Anti-Semitism Czar.” Rosenthal had first met Obama in 1996 when he was gaining the support of the Marxist political coalition known as the New Party for his Illinois state senate campaign. Rosenthal’s husband, Richard Phelps, was an executive from Madison, Wisconsin who worked closely with Joel Rogers, a co-founder of the New Party.
In December 2009 Rosenthal criticized Israel’s Jewish ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren, for having disparaged J Street. She told Israel’s leftwing daily Haaretz that Oren’s statements against J Street were “most unfortunate,” and that Oren, who had declined J Street’s invitation to speak at its October conference, “would have learned a lot” by participating.
In response to Rosenthal’s remarks, senior Israeli officials told their American colleagues that it was unacceptable for an administration official to publicly criticize Israel’s ambassador over his relationship with Jewish organizations. The Obama White House subsequently asked the State Department to issue a “clarification” notice vis à vis Rosenthal’s comments. And Alan Solow, an Obama confidante who chaired the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, condemned Rosenthal’s remarks and cast doubt over her ability to serve as a voice against anti-Semitism.