June 22, 2024
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June 22, 2024
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Jewish Groups Demand Universities Protect Jewish Students

Artist Adi Drimer with her beautiful and heartwrenching artwork.

As Israel battles Hamas terrorists, a battle is raging in the United States with college campuses exploding with antisemitic threats and violence directed against Jewish students.

The alarming increase has resulted in physical assaults, including at Tulane and Columbia universities and the University of California-Berkeley, to threats posted at Cornell University to kill Jews to Montclair State University in New Jersey, which was forced to shut down the comments on its own Instagram account after it was filled with hateful rhetoric that a Muslim student who died had been thrown out of a window and murdered by Jews.

“This certainly did not happen in a vacuum,” said Denise Katz-Prober, director of legal initiatives at the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law. “The Brandeis Center has been warning for years that university administrators were not addressing the antisemitism and anti-Zionism on their campuses and when you sweep it under the rug this is what happens.”

The artwork.

Katz-Prober said her center has received an enormous amount of inquiries from parents and faculty from K-12th grade through college since the October 7 murder of 1,400 Israeli civilians by Hamas terrorists and Israel launching its offensive in Gaza.

“Frankly this was predictable,” she said, adding that university leaders failed to recognize that Jewish students have a shared connection to Israel, and that anti-Israel rhetoric is antisemitic, leading to Jewish students feeling unsafe and unsupported on their campuses.

“When Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and other groups are celebrating and even justifying Hamas’ atrocities when we know Hamas targeted innocent civilians, they are celebrating violence against Jews,” she noted. “And when university administrators do not forcefully condemn this they are fostering a hostile atmosphere on campus for Israeli and Jewish students and contributing to a very real fear for their safety.”

Katz-Prober added: “We need moral leadership. We need more clarity for university students. We need university administrators to condemn Hamas. There should be no moral equivalence between Hamas’ atrocities against civilians and Israel’s lawful response in self-defense.”

Daniel (left) speaking with surivors of the kibbutz.

A 21-year-old Cornell student, Patrick Dai, was arrested on October 31 on federal charges for threatening to “shoot up” students at a Jewish dining hall, stab male Jewish students, rape female students and bring an assault rifle to campus and “shoot all you pig Jews.”

The university, where 22% of the student body is Jewish, has been the scene of extensive anti-Jewish and anti-Israel demonstrations and hate, so much so that a student interviewed last week by The Jewish Link was too scared to even let her first and middle initials be used as identification in the article.

At Montclair, the demand to shut down comments on its Instagram came from Hillel, said Rebekah Adelson, director of Hillel of Greater MetroWest, which includes Montclair. She termed the incident “a blood libel.”

After the Montclair freshman’s October 17 death, reportedly from suicide, rumors began circulating he was murdered by a gang of Jews for his support of Palestine.

The university subsequently put out a statement, explaining, ”There is absolutely no evidence whatsoever of any foul play or criminal actions.” It said the university’s police department had gathered extensive information, including eyewitness reports, surveillance video and statements from the deceased’s friends indicating he died alone.

Daniel (Second from right) speaking with survivors of the kibbutz.

At Columbia, a swastika was found in a restroom of the School of International and Public Affairs building. An Israeli student was assaulted after he confronted a woman taking down posters of Israeli hostages.

Jewish students at Cooper Union were barricaded in a library while a rowdy SJP rally took place.

New York Governor Kathy Hochul called on universities to step up and do more to protect Jewish and Israeli students, and especially called out the City University of New York for failing to do so as its campuses across the city. She said she planned additional steps to address campus hate speech.

Devastation at Kibbutz Rei’im.

New Jersey Attorney General Matthew Platkin called on schools to immediately report hate and bias crimes.

President Joe Biden has also spoken out against campus antisemitism; among the initiatives his administration is undertaking is a partnership between the departments of Justice and Homeland Security and campus law enforcement to monitor online hate speech.

The Brandeis Center was among 10 Jewish and civil rights groups that sent a letter to more than 500 university and college presidents demanding they “fulfill the moral and leadership responsibility entrusted to you as a university president, by speaking out now to voice your unequivocal condemnation of Hamas, its terrorist violence against Israel, and its declaration of war against the Jewish people everywhere, as well as your solidarity with and support for your Israeli and Jewish students, faculty and staff.”

The five-page letter was also signed by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), American Jewish Committee, the Zionist Organization of America, Jewish Federations of North America, Hillel International, Combat Antisemitism Movement, Israel Campus Coalition, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations and Jewish on Campus.

Additionally, the Brandeis Center and the ADL sent a subsequent letter to about 200 universities with an “urgent request” they investigate the activities of SJP on their campus for violating their university’s code of conduct and for potential violations of federal and state laws against materially supporting a foreign terrorist organization whose leaders have “explicitly endorsed” killing Jews.

More devastation at the kibbutz.

It stated that SJP has voiced an “increasingly radical call for ‘dismantling’ Zionism on American campuses, on some campuses have issued pro-Hamas messaging and/or provided violent anti-Israel messaging channels,” adding, “SJP chapters are not advocating for Palestinian rights; they are celebrating terrorism.”

Hamas was officially designated a foreign terrorist organization by the State Department in 1997.

The letter said at its recent “Resistance Day” SJP provided its chapters with public relations materials and a toolkit instructing, “We must act as part of this movement.” At many rallies there were shouts of “We are Hamas” or “We echo Hamas.”

It also warned that if the universities don’t check the activities of SJP chapters, they could be violating their Jewish students’ rights to be free of harassment and discrimination on campus.

The more broadly distributed letter notes that universities must protect the physical safety of all students, including Jewish and Israeli students, as well as their right to freely express their ancestral and ethnic identity.

The U.S. Department of Education recently has clarified Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bans discrimination on the basis of race, color or national origin in federally funded programs or activities, to define a “hostile environment” as being when unwelcome conduct “is subjectively and objectively offensive and is so severe or pervasive that it limits or denies a person’s ability to participate in or benefit from” an educational program or activity.

The Office of Civil Rights has accelerated an update to its discrimination complaint form that will now include certain types of antisemitism and Islamophobia.

“Events that celebrate Hamas’ cold-blooded murder of Jews, are ‘subjectively and objectively offensive,’” read the letter.

Among the initiatives it insisted that universities undertake are: issue a public statement supporting Jewish and Israeli students affected by the tragedy; speak out forcefully against antisemitic hate speech; take appropriate security measures to ensure Jewish and Israeli students are safe in living spaces; use discriminatory incidents to educate the campus community about the oldest form of hatred, including contemporary forms of antisemitism that target Jewish shared ancestral and ethnic identity; and make sure diversity, equity and inclusion staff are trained in contemporary forms of antisemitism.

StandWithUs, an international nonprofit that works with young people and college students to support Israel and fight antisemitism, has also been sending letters to various universities through its Saidoff Legal Department and Center for Combating Antisemitism. One recent letter was sent to New York University President Linda G. Mills, in which the organization praised her condemnation of the Hamas attack, but expressed “deep concern” about three individuals caught on camera ripping down hostage posters who had been identified as NYU students, and urged action be taken for violations of the university’s code of conduct on destruction of property, university policy regarding freedom of speech and expression and regarding discrimination.

“Campus administrators have a legal obligation to ensure student safety, as well as to provide a discrimination-free environment for all students,” said StandWithUs co-founder and CEO Roz Rothstein in a statement to The Jewish Link.

“When administrators fail to take the necessary steps to fulfill these legal duties, students facing harassment or other forms of hostility based on their Jewish or Israeli identities should know that they are not alone,” she noted. “Best practices for students in the midst of an antisemitic or anti-Israel situation include documenting the incident (to the extent they can do so safely) and, if necessary, contacting campus law enforcement.”

To report harassment, threats or an incident: Contact stndwithus.com; the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, brandeiscenter.com; or ReportCampusHate.org, an online initiative of Hillel International, Anti-Defamation League and the Secure Community Network. For physical assault and threats contact campus security or police.

Debra Rubin has had a long career in journalism writing for secular weekly and daily newspapers and Jewish publications. She most recently served as Middlesex/Monmouth bureau chief for the New Jersey Jewish News. She also worked with the media at several nonprofits, including serving as assistant public relations director of HIAS and assistant director of media relations at Yeshiva University,

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