Thirty Jewish organizations call on 165 colleges to combat antisemitism on campus

Thirty organizations, led by the Zionist Organization of America, have sent a letter to 165 colleges and university presidents across the United States, calling on them to address antisemitism on their own campus.

“Many Jewish students are feeling harassed, afraid to express their Jewish identity, including their support for Israel, and afraid for their emotional well-being and physical safety. Several of us wrote to you in September 2014 because we anticipated a frightening backlash against Jews on campus due to the Hamas war against Israel in the summer of 2014,” stated the Sept. 30 letter. “Back then, we urged you to take the necessary steps to protect your Jewish students, as you would surely do if any other vulnerable minority group on your campus was being targeted.”

“Such steps were required under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act,” continued the letter, alluding to the executive order signed by U.S. President Donald Trump last December that designated Judaism as a nationality under that law, which applies to institutions, including colleges and universities, that receive federal funding.

“Antisemitism on our college campuses has been equally alarming, particularly because the antisemites are finding new ways to target and persecute Jews,” stated the organizations. “There are still incidents of antisemitic vandalism on campus, with mezuzahs being ripped off of students’ doors in their residence halls, and swastikas defacing campus property.

“In addition, Jewish students are under siege from antisemitism related to Israel and Zionism,” they continued. “This form of antisemitism masquerades as legitimate political discourse, but in fact, it is yet another expression of Jew-hatred, causing Jewish students to feel harassed, threatened and even afraid for their safety.”

The letter cites incidents of antisemitism in higher education and recommendations for how campuses can address hatred towards Jews, including, but not limited to, responding promptly to such incidents and mandate training on antisemitism for faculty and other staff.

Finally, the organizations state that while they “appreciate that college campuses should encourage free and open debate and the robust exchange of ideas” and “support these principles,” no one “should tolerate a campus where students and student groups flagrantly disregard university rules and policies, supported by university funds, no less, without consequences.”

“None of us should support faculty using their podiums to promote their personal, political anti-Israel agendas. None of us should tolerate a campus climate of fear or disrespect, which can seriously impair the physical and psychological health of students and create conditions that negatively affect their learning and their ability to achieve their full potential.”

Photo: Attendees of a student conference on tackling antisemitism on North American college campuses gathered outside of the Hyatt Regency near the Los Angeles airport.
JC Olivera Photography