California State Assembly Passes Important Resolution

Lee Sutherland : July 21, 2015 1:46 pm : Anti-Israelism, Anti-Semitism, Freedom of Speech, Litigation, Religious Freedom

California State General Assembly

The state of California has taken another important step forward in combating anti-Semitism. On Monday, July 13, the California State General Assembly unanimously passed a resolution urging the University of California to condemn anti-Semitism.  The resolution, originally put forward by State Senator Jeff Stone (R- CA), passed the Higher Education Committee of the California State Assembly early this month by a unanimous vote. The Brandeis Center had previously written to Senator Stone, commending him for his work on the resolution and encouraging him to include the State Department’s definition of anti-Semitism. This resolution comes as a direct response to the anti-Semitic incidents that have taken place on a number of University of California campuses.

The University of California (UC) Board of Regents, who originally planned to vote on whether or not it will adopt the State Department’s definition of Anti-Semitism into university policies by the end of July, has now stated that they will instead address adopting the definition at their next meeting in September. They have pushed the date back to discuss “a statement of principles against intolerance, including, but not limited to anti-Semitism and other types of intolerance.”

This discussion comes after UC President Janet Napolitano came out in support of the State Department’s definition in May. Earlier this month, The Brandeis Center wrote a letter urging the UC Regents to adopt the definition in order to better fight anti-Semitism on its campuses.


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Zivotofsky: A Victory for the Executive Branch

Jacky Beda : June 9, 2015 2:55 pm : Anti-Israelism, General, Litigation

In 2002, Congress passed Section 214(d) of the Foreign Relations Authorization Act, which permitted American Citizens born in Jerusalem to identify on their passport that they were born in Israel. Since the passing of the statute, the State Department has refused to enforce the law, and lists only “Jerusalem” on its passports.

In a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court held that the President could disregard the Congressional Statute and upheld the State Department’s policy of only listing Jerusalem on the passports of American Citizens wishing to note that they were born in Israel.

The issue before the court was whether the federal statute directing the Secretary of State to record the birthplace of an American citizen born in Jerusalem as “Israel,” if requested to do so, infringed on the President’s power to recognize foreign states.

The Majority of the Court held that the statute was unconstitutional because it ran counter to the State Department’s long-standing policy of not recognizing any nation has having sovereignty over Jerusalem. As a result, the Statute was said to infringe on the Executive’s power to recognize foreign sovereigns.CG_AVYPUQAA9Ybc

The Court’s decision is ground breaking and dangerous for multiple reasons. First, it construes the President’s recognition powers so broadly that it includes the place of birth listed on a passport. Second, it is an even greater triumph for the Executive as the ruling creates a judicial precedent that holds that the President can disregard a foreign affairs statute passed by Congress. And lastly, it sheds light onto the troublesome policy of the State Department to not just recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, but to not even acknowledge that Jerusalem, even before its reunification in 1967 has always been part and parcel of Israel. As Abraham H. Foxman of the ADL notes, “U.S. has been unwilling for 65 years to grant its number-one ally the courtesy and respect to say, “This is your capital.”

In an amicus brief filed by LBD and co-authored by leading scholars Alan Gura and Eugene Kontorovich in support of the plaintiff’s wishes to have “Israel” listed as his place of birth on his passport, we argued that one’s place of birth designation does not amount to formal recognition by the United States of the sovereign status over that location. In other words, the Court should have construed the recognition clause narrowly to not include where one lists their birthplace on their passport. Since the passport of a U.S. citizen born in Jerusalem would have merely read “Israel,” as it would if they were born in Haifa or Tel-Aviv, then it cannot be said that the President was making any sort of endorsement on the status of Jerusalem.

The Majority opinion written by Justice Kennedy is surprising because as stated in the amicus brief, the recognition power that the Executive relies on is not at issue by the listing of a birthplace on a passport. Yet, the majority insists on construing the “recognition” power of the Executive broadly, even to encompass where one self-identifies as their place of birth on their passport.

Zivotofsky signifies a major victory for the Executive Branch, as it construes the President’s recognition powers broadly. However, more troublesome is that the ruling gives the President the power to act in defiance of an expressed congressional mandate. As Justice Jackson described in his famous Youngstown concurrence, when the President acts in defiance of a congressional restriction, the President is acting with the least amount of presidential power available. In fact, in the realm of foreign relations, the court had never struck down a statute that was in direct opposition of the Executive. As noted by Chief Justice Roberts in his dissent, “The court takes the perilous step — for the first time in our history — of allowing the president to defy an act of Congress in the field of foreign affairs,” Roberts wrote.

In Kennedy’s opinion, he notes that in matters of foreign relation, the entire nation must speak with “one voice.” Based on this language, Kennedy seems to suggest that in all aspects of foreign relations, even if not directly related to the Executive’s recognition power, the Executive has extra-constitutional powers even when its position directly conflicts with Congress. As a result, the decision is a triumphant power grab by the Executive because it disregards the role of Congress in shaping the foreign policy of the nation.


This gets me to my last point: the power grab by the Executive leads to the conclusion that the only way to overturn the Executive’s policy of not recognizing the on-the ground reality that Israel acts as the sovereign over Jerusalem is to hold off for a new administration. Perhaps only a new administration, with it newfound extra-constitutional powers in foreign relations, can make the sensible policy decision to both recognize that Jerusalem is within Israel, and that it has always been the capital of the State of Israel.

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BDS Defeated at Washington Supreme Court

Jacky Beda : June 1, 2015 12:41 pm : Anti-Israelism, Anti-Semitism, Freedom of Speech, Litigation

In a major setback to the BDS campaign, the Washington State Supreme court reversed a lower court’s ruling yesterday and struck down the state’s anti-SLAPP statute as unconstitutional.

Olympia co-op notifies its customers of its boycott of Israeli products

Olympia co-op notifies its customers of its boycott of Israeli products

The Olympia Food Co-op, based in Olympia, Washington, provides “wholesome foods and other goods and services . . . through a locally oriented, collectively managed, not-for-profit cooperative organization that relies on consensus decision making.”

In 2011, the Olympia Food Co-op’s board of directors initiated a boycott of Israeli products, without consulting with all members of the co-op. Five co-op members (the plaintiffs), initiated a lawsuit against the co-op (the defendants), accusing the store of unlawfully adopting the boycott measures in violation of its own bylaws. The defendants alleged that this lawsuit violated the Washington State anti-SLAPP statute, a tool used by many states to limit frivolous lawsuits against protected speech. The Thurston County Superior Court agreed, claiming the state’s anti-SLAPP statute had protected the Olympia Food Co-op from lawsuits against it over its boycott of Israeli products. The Superior Court ruling not only dismissed the plaintiffs’ claim, but also assessed a $232,000 fee against the plaintiffs in accordance with Washington’s anti-SLAPP statute.

What is an anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) statute?Anti-SLAPP statutes are instituted to prevent lawsuits being brought primarily to chill the valid exercise of the constitutional rights of freedom of speech. Under Washington’s anti-SLAPP statute, a plaintiff is required “to establish by clear and convincing evidence a probability of prevailing on the claim.” While nearly every state has its own anti-SLAPP statute, Washington’s version was particularly limiting. In fact, unconstitutionally so. The Supreme Court of Washington struck down the state’s anti-SLAPP statute, holding that it violates the state’s constitutional right to a jury trial.

The plaintiffs can now proceed with their lawsuit against the co-op’s board members over their 2011 decision to boycott Israel.


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3 New LDB Chapters Open in the Windy City

Aviva Vogelstein : April 21, 2015 8:14 pm : Anti-Israelism, Anti-Semitism, Freedom of Speech, Litigation, Religious Freedom

The Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law’s (LDB) Law Student Chapter Initiative, started last year, continues to expand! Last week, LDB opened three new law student chapters in Chicago – at the University of Chicago, DePaul University, and Chicago-Kent College of Law.

LDB currently has chapters at 15 law schools nationwide.

LDB currently has chapters at 15 law schools nationwide.

“The recent rise in anti-Semitism on university campuses is undeniable and deeply disturbing,” says Josh Hammer, a second-year student at the University of Chicago and one of the new chapter’s founding members. “Vigorously combatting this pernicious trend is one of our generation’s great new challenges. It is my hope that our Louis D. Brandeis Center chapter at the University of Chicago Law School will help train our future lawyers in how to do precisely that.”

Fostering a new generation of leaders who share LDB’s mission, LDB chapters fill an important gap in American legal education, offer legal and educational opportunities that members seek, and provide a resource to other members of the university community. In turn, the chapters support LDB’s work to combat anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism on college and university campuses. Brandeis Center law students assist Brandeis Center attorneys in monitoring colleges and universities around the United States to ensure compliance with federal and state civil rights laws that protect Jewish students from discrimination, harassment, and hostile environments. Since LDB is an equal opportunity organization, we welcome students of any race, color, religion, sexual orientation, national origin, age, gender or disability.

Corey Celt, a first-year law student who will be clerking with the Brandeis Center in Washington, D.C. this summer, started the new chapter at DePaul after attending the LDB National Law Student Conference this past December. Celt expressed his excitement about starting the new chapter: “I truly believe that many people are not aware of the Anti-Semitism that takes place on college campuses; if they are, they may also not be aware that there are legal remedies and legal organizations here to help. Given that DePaul University is very active in public interest law and pro bono community service, I know we have a student body that embraces the missions of the Brandeis Center and believes that ‘Human Rights for the Jewish People and justice for all’ are causes worth working for.”

Chicago-Kent LDB Chapter President Paul Geske, also an LDB National Conference participant and founding member, says, “[t]he new chapter will help us empower our fellow law students by providing them with information and the tools to engage in Jewish, civil rights advocacy. The chapter will also be a springboard for connecting students with attorneys locally, and nationwide.” At Chicago-Kent, where students are particularly interested in legal practice, students were treated to a special presentation by Supreme Court litigator Alyza Lewin, who spoke about her experience litigating the “Jerusalem Passport” case. Alyza was introduced by Constitutional Law Professor Mark D. Rosen, who put the case into the context of Con Law, making it increasingly relevant for students.

At the Kent Launch event, from left to right: Professor Mark D. Rosen, Dean Harold J. Krent, Supreme Court Litigator Alyza Lewin, LDB President Kenneth L. Marcus, LDB Chapter leaders Maria Zyskind, Kyle Zak, Justin Prince, and Paul Geske, and LDB attorney Aviva Vogelstein.

At the Kent Launch event, from left to right: Professor Mark D. Rosen, Dean Harold J. Krent, Supreme Court Litigator Alyza Lewin, LDB President Kenneth L. Marcus, LDB Chapter leaders Maria Zyskind, Kyle Zak, Justin Prince, and Paul Geske, and LDB attorney Aviva Vogelstein.

LDB President Kenneth L. Marcus commented, “We are thrilled to recognize three new Chicago law school chapters this week. These are smart, passionate, dedicated students who share our mission to advance the civil and human rights of the Jewish people and promote justice for all. I admire their commitment and look forward to supporting their efforts.”

The three new LDB Chicago chapters will join the chapter started in February at Loyola University-Chicago. We thank Chicago’s Decalogue Society of Lawyers for connecting us to such wonderful and passionate Chicago-area students, and hope that our two groups can continue to work together.

If you are interested in helping to organize an LDB law student chapter at your school, please contact me at
The Brandeis Center is an independent, non-profit civil rights organization that combats campus anti-Semitism. For more information on Brandeis Center activity, visit our website, follow us on Facebook and Twitter, read our Blog, and sign-up for our monthly publication, the Brandeis Brief!

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The Brandeis Center’s Legal Advocacy Initiative

Aviva Vogelstein : April 1, 2015 1:59 pm : Anti-Israelism, Anti-Semitism, Litigation

Through our legal advocacy initiative, Brandeis Center attorneys monitor colleges and universities around the United States to ensure compliance with federal and state civil rights laws that protect Jewish students from discrimination, harassment, and hostile environments on campus. Jewish students are protected under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination and the creation of a hostile environment in federally assisted programs and activities. Title VI covers nearly all public and private colleges and universities, and protects students on the basis of race, color, or national origin. Although Title VI does not use the word “religion,” Jewish students are protected from discrimination based on their ethnic or ancestral background. This is because Jewish students are targeted not only based on their actual religious practices or on tenets of the Jewish religion, but also for their perceived ethnic, racial, or ancestral identity. When discrimination occurs, the law states that the university must promptly and adequately respond.

Brandeis Center Attorney, Aviva Vogelstein

Brandeis Center Attorney, Aviva Vogelstein

Whenever possible, we work with university administrators to respond properly to discrimination, intimidation, or harassment of Jewish students. We encourage voluntary adoption of our best practice responses to anti-Semitic and anti-Israeli incidents. If necessary, however, Brandeis Center lawyers are prepared to commence legal action to fight discrimination against Jewish students.

The Brandeis Center has worked to bring legal action in response to incidents of anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism on college campuses across the country. Recent examples include working to overturn proposed university academic boycotts of Israel that would injure intellectual freedom; advocating for Jewish students whose freedom of speech and freedom of assembly rights were violated; and protecting Jewish students who were physically and verbally assaulted for their Jewish and pro-Israel beliefs. Legal advocacy is a vital part of the Brandeis Center’s campaign to effect positive change on university campuses; it not only works to create a safe environment for Jewish and pro-Israel students, but also allows undergraduate and law student activists to engage in our activities and learn more about what they can do to help.

The Brandeis Center provides a range of materials for those who want to learn more about fighting campus anti-Semitism. For example, our “Title VI Fact Sheet” provides a short guide to the law against campus anti-Semitism”. Similarly, our “Best Practices Guide for Combating Campus Anti-Semitism and Anti-Israelism” explains how administrators can best address campus anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism in a manner consistent with academic freedom and the freedom of speech. Our most recent guide, the LDB Fact Sheet on Anti-Semitic Discourse, describes the many forms anti-Semitism has taken over the years, some of which can be difficult to identify. While hostility to Israel is not always anti-Semitic, it sometimes is – especially when, to paraphrase Natan Sharansky, it uses double standards or attempts to demonize and delegitimize the Jewish state. In addition, the Brandeis Center maintains an online repository of pertinent documents (such as the U.S. State Department definition of anti-Semitism) and a compendium of “best practice” materials to provide support on a wide range of compliance matters, including issues relating to non-discrimination policies, the First Amendment, academic freedom, communications, and orientation and training.

If you are aware of anti-Semitic or anti-Israeli incidents on your college or university campus, please contact lawyers at the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law via e-mail or call (202) 559-9296.

The Brandeis Center is an independent, non-profit civil rights organization that combats campus anti-Semitism. For more information on Brandeis Center activity, visit our website, follow us on Facebook and Twitter, read our Blog, and sign-up for our monthly publication, the Brandeis Brief!

The Brandeis Center is a tax-exempt institution under section 501(c)(3) of the United States tax code and receives contributions from individuals and foundations so that it can provide its services free of charge.

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AAJLJ Speaker Series: Is Jerusalem in Israel?

Bianca Carrillo : February 10, 2015 7:35 pm : General, Litigation

Alyza Lewin

Alyza Lewin

Join the American Association of Jewish Lawyers and Jurists’s (AAJLJ) DC Chapter for an exciting luncheon event on Monday, February 23, 2015. This installment of the AAJLJ’s speaker series, called “Is Jerusalem in Israel? The Zivotofsky (Jerusalem Passport) Case,” features a member of our legal advisory board, Alyza D. Lewin.

Ms. Lewin is AAJLJ’s president, a partner at Lewin & Lewin, and a member of our legal advisory board.  She will be discussing her experiences with arguing before the Supreme Court in the case of Zivotofsky v. Kerry. The case involves the right of an American citizen born in Jerusalem to list “Israel” as the place of birth on their U.S. passport. Come hear Ms. Lewin discuss the separation of powers questions raised by the case, and her experience at oral argument.

The Louis D. Brandeis Center filed an amicus brief on the Jerusalem Passport Case in the U.S. Supreme Court, which is co-authored by leading scholars Alan Gura and Eugene Kontorovich. The brief argues that this case “lends itself to a much simpler resolution than would a true dispute between the president and Congress regarding the powers to recognize the legal status of states and foreign sovereigns.”

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The Brandeis Center Holds Second Annual National Law Student Leadership Conference

David Leeds : January 2, 2015 9:38 am : Anti-Israelism, Anti-Semitism, Freedom of Speech, Litigation, Religious Freedom

The Brandeis Center hosted its second National Law Student Leadership Conference in Washington, DC on December 29-30.  This event took place as part of the Center’s recent law student and public outreach initiatives.  Many of the students in attendance were members of their universities’ chapters of the Brandeis Center.  Our law student chapter program fills an important gap in American legal education, offering educational programming that connects students’ legal education to pressing Jewish civil rights issues.  The conference’s primary focus was on engaging the students in dialogue with each other about the issues facing them as aspiring lawyers and proponents of civil rights through a series of lectures, panels, and roundtable discussions with several prominent figures in academia, government and professional law.  In attendance were the LDB chapters of University of Pennsylvania, CUNY, UVA, University of St. Thomas, UCLA, and ten others.  Several other students are in the process of forming their own chapters and others plan to do so in the coming weeks.  The conference’s events covered a variety of legal and political issues related to the Brandeis Center’s core mission, such as the power of student leadership, federal protection of the civil rights of Jewish students, and fighting anti-Semitism.

The conference began with addresses from the Brandeis Center’s own Aviva Vogelstein and Kenneth L. Marcus at the District Architecture Center.  Vogelstein welcomed the students and guests to the forum. Marcus began his speech by asserting the importance of combating anti-Semitism through legal action and then by recounting the history of the Brandeis Center’s student chapter program, whose level of success has exceeded all expectations praising the member-students’ demonstrated ability to accomplish goals with unparalleled enthusiasm. Law students, according to Marcus, have the responsibility to focus on more than just succeeding in school – they need a broader sense of what it can truly mean to be a lawyer.  However, Marcus warned, taking stands on important issues will inevitably foster adversity, which is why crusading for civil rights is a task that merits the utmost respect.  He expressed gratitude to the students for their efforts to strengthen the LDB’s fight against injustice.  Marcus ended his speech by discussing the importance of a fair educational system. “To understand what’s happening locally,” he remarked, “you have to have an understanding of what’s happening globally.” And with that, he introduced the keynote speaker, Hon. Ira Forman, the US State Department’s Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism.


Kenneth L. Marcus gives his conference-opening speech

Forman gave an engaging, off-the-record speech about his experiences fighting against anti-Semitism abroad during his time with the State Department.  Forman, former Executive Director of the National Jewish Democratic Council, gave a highly informative speech that drew upon his extensive experience dealing with discrimination in order to put some of the conference’s central topics in a larger historical context.  The students were thrilled to get the opportunity to hear from a high-ranking governmental official on an issue of such importance to them. more »

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Brandeis Center Legal Advisory Board Member Garners Major Title VI Victory

Joel Siegal : June 4, 2014 7:02 pm : Litigation

Civil Rights Attorney, Joel H. Siegal, a member of the Louis D. Brandeis Center’s Legal Advisory Board, reports a major Title Six victory brought on behalf of a 14 year old African-American student against St. Charles Borromeo School, a private elementary school operated by the Archdiocese of San Francisco.

In the case, Mugisha M. v. St. Charles Borromeo School and the Archdiocese of San Francisco (San Francisco Superior CGC-11-516-819), Joel H. Siegal and his law partner Richard L. Richardson who represented the student, presented facts that between the third and sixth grade, Mugisha was subjected to vile and offensive racial bullying, name calling, and taunting by several classmates.  The school is located in the Mission District of San Francisco, and Mugisha was just one of three black students at the school.  The evidence established that during the three years, Mugisha’s mother made numerous complaints to the school administrators and officials, yet no effective plan to have the racial bullying cease was ever put into play.  The bullying and taunting amplified to the place in the sixth grade, when several students participated in cutting a part of Mugisha’s dreadlocks, and then throwing him in a recycling bin.

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Brandeis Center Presses Vassar College to Hold Student Group Accountable

Steven Isaacson : May 23, 2014 12:51 pm : Anti-Israelism, Anti-Semitism, Litigation


Vassar College

Vassar College

The Brandeis Center has urged Vassar College President Catherine Bond Hill to take penalizing action against the college’s chapter of SJP, Students for Justice in Palestine. In a letter to Vassar President Catherine Bond Hill on May 19th, 2014, “We believe that this incident may raise serious issues concerning federal civil rights law.” SJP recently posted a Nazi propaganda poster on their Tumblr page.

The posters are German from 1944 and they portray a monster in a Star of David loincloth with many hands, wearing a KKK (Ku Klux Klan) mask, holding a little man grasping a moneybag, and attached to an American plane wing while it destroys a European town. It is entitled “Liberators.” The Brandeis Center urges Vassar President Bond Hill to take swift action against this group.



The Center made it clear to President Bond Hill that this incident at her school is a step backwards in the fight for respectful discussion, saying, “More broadly, this incident is deeply offensive and antithetical to basic notions of civil discourse.”  Brandeis Center lawyers added, “we urge you to take additional prompt and effective action to address this problem including taking strong disciplinary action against SJP.”

This incident at Vassar comes just days after its chapter of SJP Vassar posted other material on its Tumblr page concerning the Holocaust and the UN’s response. This cartoon shows major powers during the creation of Israel. It shows the Jews moving Palestinians in 1948; upset, the Palestinians ask why the Jews can do that, and the major powers respond with “Holocaust, Holocaust indeed.” This is propaganda to suggest that any so-called “illegal action” by Israel is justified by the Holocaust. more »

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Launch of Northeastern Law School Chapter – March 19, 2014

Danit Sibovits : March 14, 2014 2:54 pm : Anti-Israelism, Anti-Semitism, Freedom of Speech, General, Litigation, Uncategorized

06campusnortheastern-university-law-1The Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law is happy to announce the launch of its Northeastern law student chapter, located in Boston.   Danit Sibovits, LDB Staff Attorney heading the legal advocacy initiative, will be speaking at the launch.  The law school chapter initiative is the newest phase in the Brandeis Center’s campaign against campus anti- Semitism.

The launch at Northeastern will take place on Wednesday, March 19, 2014 from 12:00 to 1:00 p.m. Northeastern School of Law is located at 400 Huntington Ave, Boston, MA 02115.  Law students who are interested in helping to organize an LDB law student chapter should contact Danit Sibovits at

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