With the expansion of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, we have begun a new litigation initiative that focuses on the resurgence of anti-Semitism on universities across the nation. Specifically, we will work with faculty and students to investigate incidents, work with administration on procedures and protocols, and file legal complaints when necessary. Our goal is change the culture on campuses so that anti-Semitism is taken as seriously as other forms of hate and discrimination while also maintaining academic freedom and freedom of speech.
The recent resurgence of campus anti-Semitism should be kept in perspective. On the one hand, most Jewish American college students do not face anti-Jewish bigotry. In many respects, the current period is a golden age for Jewish life of on campus. Anti-Jewish quotas and institutional barriers have long since been discarded, and many universities offer Jewish Studies and Israel Studies programs as well as various accommodations for Jewish students and faculty. On the other hand, there has been a substantial resurgence of anti-Semitic incidents at many universities nationwide. An estimated 40% of Jewish American college students have experienced or are aware of anti-Semitism on their campuses. Anti-Semitism remains largely underreported especially when it assumes the guise of anti-Israel sentiment.
Many people are reluctant to forcefully combat anti-Semitism because they would prefer to focus on projecting a positive view of Israel and the Jewish community. We are often asked whether we really believe that combating anti-Semitism is the most effective way of conducting Israel activism. We respond that it is not even the second best approach to that task. In fact, we do not combat anti-Semitism in order to support the State of Israel. Rather, we combat anti-Semitism because we know that anti-Semitism is an evil that worsens when permitted to fester. We agree that there are more effective means of conducting Israel advocacy, such as presenting Israel’s favorable qualities and rebutting the misinformation that its enemies disseminate. Nevertheless, those approaches will not ultimately succeed as long as virulent anti-Semitism is allowed to spread. Those who support Israel must combat anti-Semitism if their other programs are to succeed, even if this is not our motivation. We must fight anti-Semitism because it is the right thing to do as a matter of civil and human rights.
Our own approach is inclusive and cooperative. Whenever possible, we like to work with students, faculty, administrators, community organizations, and other groups. In any campus controversy, our hope is to meet with as many people as practicable. Cases involving the civil rights of Jewish students involve faculty and third parties as well. In order to be proactive, we like to not only interview and investigate incidents once they happen, but also to maintain relationships with a wide range of interested and knowledgeable people on campus so that if an anti-Semitic incident does occur on campus in the future, we are ready and able to act quickly.
We also like to work with senior university administrators, such as presidents, provosts, student affairs staff, and legal counsel to facilitate their institutions’ compliance with legal requirements. In our Best Practices Guide for Combating Campus Anti-Semitism and Anti-Israelism, we provide administrators with many tools to combat anti-Semitism in every type of situation.
While we try to combat campus anti-Semitism through education, communication, and advocacy, litigation may be necessary when university administrators fail to take prompt and effective action. We are ready to pursue this avenue when necessary as well.
If you are aware of anti-Semitic incidents on any college or university in the United States, please contact attorneys at the Louis D. Brandeis Center, who are specifically focused on combating anti-Semitism on American college and university campuses.