US college presidents urged to do more to combat campus antisemitism

Written by on October 3, 2020

30 Jewish organizations have penned a letter detailing a range of recommendations

Attendees of the

Attendees of the “No Hate No Fear” rally against antisemitism, Jerusalem, January 5, 2020

(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

Thirty Jewish organizations have written a joint letter to 165 colleges and universities across the United States, urging them to do more to protect Jewish students from the rise in antisemitism on campuses country-wide.

The letter, an initiative by the Zionist Organization of America, details numerous examples of on-campus antisemitism at universities including New York University, the University of Southern California, Duke University, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and urges educational leaders to take specific steps to do more to combat anti-Jewish hatred.

A number of the organizations involved had written to the educational institutions previously, in September 2014, when antisemitism peaked due to the war between Israel and Hamas. However, the current letter details, “since then, the situation has worsened for Jews in the US and around the world. Antisemitism has surged. In 2018, it was at “near-historic levels,” according to the Anti-Defamation League’s [ADL’s] annual audit of antisemitic incidents.”

Last year antisemitism hit an “all time high,” according to the ADL, which recorded a 12% increase in antisemitic incidents overall, and a shocking 56% increase in assaults, including the shooting at the Chabad of Poway in California, the three people killed at a kosher supermarket in Jersey City, and the rabbi who died from injuries following a stabbing in Monsey, New York.

“Antisemitism on our college campuses has been equally alarming, particularly because the antisemites are finding new ways to target and persecute Jews,” the letter reads. Antisemitic vandalism still takes place on campus, including mezuzahs being ripped off doorposts and swastikas daubed on students’ property.

Jewish students are also subjected to antisemitism relating to Zionism and Israel.

“For example, in April 2018, NYU’s antisemitic hate group that calls itself “Students for Justice in Palestine” (SJP) and its allies assembled more than 50 other student groups to join them in a campaign to marginalize Jewish and pro-Israel students,” the letter details.

“In addition to pledging to boycott Israeli goods, Israeli academic institutions and conferences, and several off-campus pro-Israel groups, this coalition pledged to boycott NYU’s pro-Israel student clubs by not co-sponsoring any events with them. SJP’s goal could not be clearer: to marginalize and silence Jewish and pro-Israel students.”

Antisemitism has also made its way into the lecture theater.

“Academic departments are increasingly sponsoring events that demonize Israel, condone violence against Israel or call for the elimination of the Jewish state. Faculty advocate for and try to implement anti-Israel academic boycotts,” the letter reads.

It goes on to remind educational leaders that they have an “unequivocal legal obligation to address antisemitic harassment and discrimination,” detailing a number of ways in which this could be done.

These include issuing strong public statements urging civil discussion and debate; responding promptly to each and every antisemitic incident on campus, publicly condemning both the antisemitism and the perpetrators; holding wrongdoers to account; reviewing rules on cyberbullying; immediately reporting alleged or suspected criminal conduct; mandating training on antisemitism for students and staff alike; issuing a statement to faculty informing them they cannot use their academic positions to promote antisemitism; and making it clear that students must be able to express their views in class with no fear of intimidation or reprisal.

“College leaders must understand the enormous and undeserved hatred and hostility that many Jewish students are enduring on campus now, and they must be committed to addressing these problems. We would expect no less from college leaders if any other group was being targeted on campus and subjected to harassment and bigotry,” ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said in a statement.

“It is intolerable that any student on a US campus should have even the slightest fear or worry about being proudly Jewish and proudly expressing their Jewish identity, including their support for their religious and ancestral homeland, Israel.”

Urging colleges and universities to implement the coalition’s recommendations right away, he added: “It should not be lost on college leaders that 30 diverse national organizations came together because we all share serious concern about rising antisemitism and its impact on the safety and well-being of Jewish students on American college campuses.”

One of those organizations was HaShevet, a watchdog group focused on reinvigorating support for Zionism in the US.

In their own statement released to coincide with the letter, the organization said it was “proud” to join ZOA and the other 28 organizations in urging college presidents to do more on antisemitism.

“We are excited to join with the 29 Jewish organizations that signed onto this letter,” Bryan E. Leib, Chairman of HaShevet said.

“HaShevet will always stand shoulder to shoulder with Jewish students who are under attack because of their values and beliefs. Jewish students in America are waking up to Nazi swastikas painted on their dorm room because they are Pro-Israel and Pro-Zionism. Unfortunately, this is a reality that many Jewish students are facing and we refuse to stand on the sidelines as our Jewish students are under attack.”

The groups that co-signed the ZOA’s letter were: Alpha Epsilon Pi, American Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists, American Friends of Ateret Cohanim, Americans Against Antisemitism, Americans for a Safe Israel, Americans for Peace and Tolerance, Chamah, Chovevei Zion, Christians’ Israel Public Action Campaign, Club Z, Coalition for Jewish Values, Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA), Conference of Jewish Affairs, Endowment for Middle East Truth, HaShevet, Hasbara Fellowships, Institute of Black Solidarity for Israel, The Lawfare Project, Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, Middle East Research Center, Ltd., National Council of Young Israel, One Israel Fund, Russian American Jewish Experience, Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, StandWithUs Saidoff Legal Department, Students Supporting Israel, Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, Young Jewish Conservatives, and Z Street.

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