The mission statement of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs expresses a profound commitment to fostering support for Israel and promoting Jewish security.  JCPA is similarly committed to protecting freedom of speech and furthering civil discourse. 

Most Jewish students live and study on campuses on which they feel secure in both their person and identity.   However, a disturbing anti-Israel climate on some college campuses is a cause for great concern.  The JCPA is deeply troubled by instances of students and faculty who have been intimidated, harassed, and even threatened with physical violence because of their Jewish identity or their support for the Jewish state.  

 

In such circumstances, it is important for the Jewish community to serve as a resource and to offer campus groups assistance, as needed, to help them develop and implement strategies to protect Jewish students on campus and allow them to  openly express their support for Israel.  Such strategies include: working with school administrators, faculty and students to encourage clear statements rejecting harassment and promoting respect; finding ways to de-escalate conflict while promoting a climate in which Jewish students are physically secure and comfortable participating fully in campus life; and insisting on serious and thorough investigations of individual complaints, including disciplinary action as appropriate. 

 

The Jewish community should also educate itself regarding the recourse now available to Jewish students under Title VI of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination based on race, color, or national origin in federally funded programs.  Although religion is not an enumerated category, an October 2010 letter from the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights clarified that Title VI offers students protection from a hostile environment “on the basis of actual or perceived shared ancestry or ethnic characteristics.”  This broader understanding of Title VI was long sought by the JCPA and other Jewish groups and applies, as well, to students from any discrete religious group that shares, or is perceived to share, ancestry or ethnic characteristics (e.g., Muslims or Sikhs).  A school’s responsibility to remedy a valid Title VI complaint is significant – a school must take prompt and effective steps reasonably calculated to end the harassment, eliminate any hostile environment and its effects, and prevent the harassment from recurring.   Complaints must be filed with the Office for Civil Rights within 180 days.  The new Department of Education policy promises to provide additional protection for Jewish students against bullying and other harassment, a concern expressed in a 2010 Plenum resolution. 

 

Some in the Jewish community have argued that an aggressive application of Title VI can be a useful tool in protecting students from situations that are causing real harm.  Others have countered that Title VI can be misused in an effort to silence criticism of Israel and, as such, poses a threat to academic freedom and the marketplace of ideas, and that may actually make campus life more challenging for Jewish students. Still other groups believe that it is a tool that should be used judiciously and selectively only in the most egregious cases where other remedies have been unsuccessful. 

 

The Jewish Council for Public Affairs:

 

The community relations field should:

[1] One definition of anti-Semitism accepted by many is the European Union Monitoring Center’s working definition of anti-Semitism, which has been adopted by the U.S. State Department and the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (which can be found at http://bit.ly/eudefinition).

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