Publications : Opinion Pieces  
 

The Year in Review


The Brandeis Brief

January 2013
 

Maybe you feel like 2012 flew right by.  But if you are only one year old, it feels like it lasted a lifetime.  The Louis D. Brandeis Center launched in February 2012, so we are in the latter camp.  It has been a long year for us, but it has largely been a good one.  To be sure, we have seen some tragedies this year.   Internationally, this was the year of the Toulouse massacre, the Hungarian Jobbik party, the UCU lawsuit, the Ahmadinejad threat, the Gaza rockets, and the Mila Kunis affair.   Domestically, we have seen widely publicized anti-Israel events at Harvard and Penn; notable incidents at Florida Atlantic University and Rutgers; and a nationwide wave of anti-Israel protest activity in the wake of Israel’s Operation Pillar of Defense.  However, we have also seen some signs of progress, including anecdotal reports that radical anti-Israel activists are toning down their anti-Semitism in response to our campaign.  In November, LDB President Kenneth L. Marcus was honored on the Forward 50 listing of the “American Jews who made the most significant impact on the news in the past year.”

JANUARY

As we were just setting up shop, LDB President Kenneth L. Marcus described “The Campaign Against Campus Anti-Semitism” in a widely distributed column.  For some readers, this was their first exposure to the problems that Jewish college students face on some campuses.  Marcus,  however, had been fighting campus anti-Semitism for a decade, first within the federal government and later with as head of the Anti-Semitism Initiative at the Institute for Jewish & Community Research (IJCR). 

FEBRUARY

In February, we formally announced that we were opening our doors.  Our friends at IJCR enthused:  “We are pleased that the center will help to protect the legal rights of Jewish students, filling a critical need identified in our research.”  We explained that we would combat campus anti-Semitism through research, education and advocacy.  Kenneth Marcus added, “It’s time to directly advocate for Jewish students and to make some charges in higher education.”  We also announced the appointment of two blue-ribbon advisory committees, including an Academic Advisory Board featuring former Canadian justice minister Irwin Cotler as honorary chair.

From the beginning, the Brandeis Center has had lots of good buzz, generating immediate positive press coverage here and here and here and here and here.  One prominent editorial announced that "Kenneth L. Marcus, ... as president and general counsel of The Louis D. Brandeis Center, has a laser focus on civil rights and Jewish students."

No sooner had we opened our doors, when anti-Israel activists demonstrated why we are so necessary.  Throughout February,  anti-Israel activists trumpeted their right to engage in offensive, even hateful anti-Israel speech during the so-called “Israel Apartheid Week” or “Hate Week.”  Insisting on their own freedom to indulge in anti- Israel speech, college activists staged high-profile events around the world, most notably at Harvard and the University   of Pennsylvania.  In some cases, as at the University of California at Davis, they also insisted on their right to silence pro-Israel presentations. 

On February 8, the David Project issued a widely discussed report on such incidents, called “A Burning Campus? Rethinking Israel Advocacy at America’s Universities and Colleges.”  Promoting a soft approach to Israel advocacy, the David Project wrote:  “Our primary task on campus is not to fight the anti-Israel voices, but it is to build pro-Israel support.  It is not to counter the negative, but to promote the positive. It is not to teach young people how to debate, but how to make friends.”  The Brandeis Center has been in steady conversation with the David Project and considers their approach to be a useful piece of a comprehensive approach to the current campus problem.

Taking a broad view of the campus scene, Brandeis Center publications urged a three-pronged strategy:  First, Israel supporters should lead with positive messaging about Israel (as per the David Project’s recommendations).   Second, Israel’s supporters should respond with facts and figures to correct misinformation, as other groups are now doing.  Finally,  when campus incidents cross a line into outright anti-Semitism, the Jewish community needs to take a stand.  Legal action is not always the right answer even to brazen bigotry, but there are times when it cannot be avoided, and the community must be ready.  The Brandeis Center was established to make sure that we are ready when these times come.

On February 27, a handful of protesters disrupted a presentation on “Defending the Israeli Image,” and one protester announced, “I will stand here and heckle you until you leave… my only purpose is that this event is shut down.”   Kenneth Marcus urged an effective response.  Under pressure from Jewish advocates, UC President Mark Yudof issued a strong statement condemning the disruption as “reprehensible.”

In late February, Marcus joined filmmaker Gloria Greenfield at the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival for a public discussion following a screening of Greenfield’s documentary, Unmasked:  Judeophobia and the Threat to Civilization.” Marcus appears in the film as an expert on anti-Semitism in higher education.

MARCH

The Brandeis Brief launched in March as the “newsletter for the newly established Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law.”

Shortly afterwards, the need for constant vigilance was brutally demonstrated in Toulouse, France.  On March 19, Mohammed Merah entered a Jewish day school and murdered 30-year-old Rabbi Jonathan Sandler, his children Aryeh (aged 6) and Gabriel (aged 3), and the head teacher’s daughter Miriam Monsonego (aged 8).  Many commentators initially denied that Merah’s motivation was anti-Semitism until this became fully indisputable.  The Brandeis Center is analyzing the Toulouse massacre for a major publication.

Later in the month, the Loyola University Chicago Law Journal published the proceedings of a conference on genocidal incitment which Kenneth L. Marcus co-convened with Loyola Professor Alexander Tsesis.  The conference included Marcus’ paper on "Accusation in a Mirror,", which explains how genocidal incitement works, from Nazi Germany to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s Iran.  In the same issue, LDB Advisor Karen Eltis (Columbia/Ottawa) elaborates on Ahmadinejad’s incitement,  connecting it to similarly dangerous language used during Israel Apartheid Week.

On March 25, Kenneth L. Marcus co-convened a conference at Indiana University (IU) on “The Intellectual Sources of Campus Anti-Semitism” with Tammi Rossman-Benjamin, co-founder of the Amcha Initiative, Alvin Rosenfeld, Director of the Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism at IU, and IJCR.  Rosenfeld and Rossman-Benjamin serve on the Brandeis   Center’s Academic Advisory Board.

APRIL

In April,  a Rutgers University student newspaper published a satirical article describing a Jewish student activist as being “pro-Hitler.”  The article was offensive for many reasons, and it stoked tensions at a university which was already subject to a campus anti-Semitism complaint filed by the Zionist Organization of America.  The Brandeis Center admonished Rutgers that it was concerned about recent developments and began a dialogue with Rutgers administrators.

Around the same time, LDB announced a significant board expansion, appointing two new independent directors:  Dr.  Richard Cravatts, President of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, and the Hon. Tevi Troy, a senior federal official in the George W. Bush Administration.  Cravatts and Troy strengthened the Brandeis Center’s capabilities in communications management (Cravatts’ field) and public policy.

That same month, edited a Special Issue on Campus Anti-Semitism for the Journal for the Study of Anti-Semitism. This issue highlights the Brandeis Center’s commitment to developing and promoting research which identifies, explains, and responds to Jew-hatred and anti-Israelism on university campuses and elsewhere.  The issue includes several important papers, such as an article on Anti-Semitism and the Campus Left by newly appointed LDB Director Richard Cravatts. 

MAY

Throughout the Spring, the Brandeis   Center worked to educate the public about campus anti-Semitism and the availability of various remedies,  including a legal approach under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  This work paid off in May, with the adoption of important Jewish communal statements on campus anti-Semitism.

On May 4,  the National Conference on Jewish Affairs (NCJA), a national umbrella organization, issued a strong resolution urging Jewish leaders to cooperate with efforts to combat campus anti-Semitism. The NCJA’s resolution specifically praises the Louis D. Brandeis Center: "We urge Jewish leaders to cooperate, in serious cases, with organizations like the Louis D. Brandeis Center and the ZOA Center for Law & Justice, which have been established to combat campus anti-Semitism through legal means.”

A few days later, the organized Jewish community in the US cast a big vote of confidence for LDB’s kind of civil rights lawsuits to protect Jewish students.  In addition to supporting the Brandeis Center’s general approach to campus anti-Semitism, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs urged Congress to pass legislation prohibiting religious harassment in federally funded schools, a recommendation which Kenneth L.  Marcus developed in 2006. 

Similarly,  the Rabbinical Assembly issued a helpful resolution on campus anti-Semitism at its May plenum.   The Rabbinical Assembly’s statement was styled as a “Resolution Opposing Anti-Israel Activities on Campus,” but it too addressed the resurgence of anti-Semitic incidents.  Marcus served as a lay member of the Rabbinical Assembly’s resolution subcommittee on this issue, just as he had worked with the other organizations on the respective statements and resolutions that they passed in May.

On May 16,  the Israel Democracy Institute (IDI) conducted a landmark International Conference on the Role of Religion in Human Rights Discourse in Jerusalem.  IDI aspires to be the global center of scholarly inquiry on questions involving religion and human rights.  At this important gathering, Marcus delivered an invited lecture on “Three Conceptions of Religious Freedomin American constitutional law,  explaining how traditional approaches do not always adequately protect the rights of religious minorities.

Two weeks later, the Brandeis Center made its first filing at the U.S. Supreme Court on May 29.  LDB teamed up with several Asian civil rights organization, including the 80-20 National Asian American Educational Foundation, to speak out against anti-Jewish and anti-Asian discrimination. The joint brief explains how contemporary anti-Asian policies mimic methods which were previously used to restrict the enrollment of Jewish students in American universities during the last century.

AJS Review, the journal of the Association of Jewish Studies, published Professor Paul Burstein’s thoughtful and provocative review of Jewish Identity and Civil Rights in America.  "Kenneth Marcus has given us a book that is thoughtful and impassioned, creative and careful,  erudite and provocative," Burstein writes. "Everyone concerned about vicious anti-Zionism and antisemitism on campus should read it." 

At long last, the Internal Revenue Service has determined in May that the Brandeis Center is exempt from Federal income tax under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code.  Contributions to LDB are now tax-deductible in the United   States. 

JUNE

In the battle over campus anti-Semitism, alarmists are too often pitted against quietists.  In a widely discussed article published on June 10, Kenneth L. Marcus explains a middle way which is more reasonable than these approaches.   Matthew Ackerman comments in Commentary Contentions that Marcus’ article provides a "refreshing window into what things look like at ground level."

On June 21, Ralph Nader hosted Kenneth Marcus and Josef Olmert in a C-SPAN telecast debate in Washington, D.C., with James Zogby and Jack Shaheen on anti-Semitism and anti-Arab discrimination.

On June 25, Marcus developed a panel on "Anti-Israelism in Higher Education,"  which was delivered at the Association of Israel Studies’ annual meeting in Haifa, Israel.  Marcus was joined on the SPME-sponsored panel by Ed Beck, Richard Cravatts, Richard Landes and Tammi Rossman-Benjamin.  This group also presented a panel event at Tel Aviv   University.

JULY

In July, Jewish students settled an anti-Semitism lawsuit against the university’s Berkeley campus.  The Berkeley lawsuit was based on numerous anti- Jewish incidents, including one in which a Jewish student was rammed from behind by a pro-Palestinian activist pushing a loaded shopping cart.  Under the settlement, Berkeley adopted two new policies regarding imitation firearms and protests that obstruct pedestrian passageways.

The same month, the University of California’s systemwide campus climate committee issued a remarkable report which acknowledges that “Jewish students are confronting significant and difficult climate issues as a result of activities on campus which focus specifically on Israel,  its right to exist and its treatment of Palestinians.”  Some observers had feared that the report would be a whitewash, since committee members were hand-picked by university officials.  In fact, it is was a well-balanced report, primarily authored by Anti-Defamation League national education chairman Richard Barton and NAACP California president Alice Huffman.

Unfortunately,  the report also overreached a little, urging university officials to ban all hate speech on campus. This would violate the First Amendment. If this brief provision had appeared in any other report, it would probably have been ignored in favor of the more persuasive recommendations.  Because it is included in a report on campus anti-Semitism, however, the opposite occurred. Anti-Israel activists jumped all over it. The hate-speech recommendation, which was a non-starter from the outset, triggered such a firestorm of opposition, that all of the committee’s good and strong recommendations have been ignored.

Responding to this report, Marcus wrote:  “For a university to solve its anti-Semitism problem, it needs to acknowledge that it has a problem, and doing so means adopting a clear definition which describes the situations that may properly be called anti-Semitic. These are important, long overdue reforms. Together with the policies being considered by the Berkeley campus, the campus climate committee’s recommendations should be quickly adopted.”

AUGUST

In August, Kenneth L. Marcus keynoted the inaugural meeting of the Alpha Epsilon Pi Civic Chairs at the fraternity’s 99th anniversary convention in Phoenix, Arizona.  Marcus appreciated meeting many Jewish college student leaders there.  As always, we are interested in hearing from college students and faculty who need our help fighting anti-Semitic harassment and hostile environments for Jewish students on campus. 

As universities prepared for the fall semester, the Brandeis Center prepared a blueprint for university administrators who are sincerely open to joining our efforts to combat campus anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism while also respecting free speech.   Specifically, we developed the LDB Best Practices Guidethat explains how they can do this.  Depending on circumstances, appropriate techniques may include: issuing leadership statements to rebut anti-Semitic and anti-Israel propaganda; regulating non-speech forms of anti-Semitism, including assault, battery, and vandalism; regulating the time, place or manner of anti-Semitic hate speech; insuring effective security to prevent anti-Israel heckling at university lectures; and preventing anti-Jewish vandalism, such as the defacement of Israeli flags or Jewish institutional property on campus.  The Brandeis Center’s work demonstrates that campus anti-Semitism can be defeated while fully protecting freedom of speech and academic freedom.

On Aug.  28, the California Assembly adopted an important resolution urging California public universities to combat campus anti-Semitism.  House Resolution 35, authored by Assemblywoman Linda Halderman (R-Fresno), detailed a wide range of anti-Semitic and anti-Israel incidents at UC and admonished that, “the problem requires additional serious attention on both a campuswide and systemwide basis.”  Unfortunately, this resolution also contains some language which arguably infringes on the First Amendment.  Rather than working to implement those sections which are unobjectionable, however, critics have savaged the resolution and waged an aggressive and apparently well-funded effort to frustrate the campaign against campus anti-Semitism.

The Brandeis Center urged the University   of California to fully comply with the spirit of the resolution but to do so within constitutional parameters. Universities can provide the full measure of “serious attention” to campus anti-Semitism—as the California Assembly requires—without restricting student speech at all.

SEPTEMBER

On September 21, St. Louis   University hosted a so-called "End the Occupation" conference.

The Brandeis Center urged St. Louis University President Lawrence Biondi, S.J., to speak out against anti-Israel and anti-Semitic hate speech in advance of the controversial meeting. As a human rights organization, the Brandeis   Center believes that the appearance of university endorsement of hate and bias events can create a campus environment which is incompatible with equal opportunity and civil discourse.

After a successful social media campaign this fall, by the end of September, LDB’s revamped Facebook page enjoyed nearly 750 highly engaged users.  We will soon have triple that number!  Join us on Facebook in order to get regular updates on LDB and campus anti-Semitism and to join in the conversation!

OCTOBER

Two LDB legal advisors, Neal M. Sher and Joel Siegel, announced on October 1 that federal investigators had agreed to investigate their complaint of discrimination against Jewish students at the University of California at Berkeley.  This complaint contains largely the same allegations that had previously been litigated in federal district court prior to the July settlement.

On October 8, the Brandeis   Center joined the International Alliance to End Genocide (IAEG). LDB has long stressed the continuities between genocidal rhetoric on some American college and university campuses and the gathering genocidal hatred in some parts of the Middle East.

On October 30, Mitchell Bard and Jeff Dawson of the American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise (AICE) released the findings of its controversial study, “Israel and the Campus: The Real Story”  The report found that relatively few campuses experience anti-Israel events, even though Jewish college students report a high level of anti-Semitism.   Several commentators criticized the report or its media portrayal. 

Unfortunately, some of Bard and Dawson’s most important findings were lost in this debate.   For example, the AICE report explained that the campus scene had recently improved, partly in response to our campaign:  “In the last two years, [the campus situation] has changed somewhat as Jewish students have begun to speak out more against the intolerance they experience on campus and outside organizations and donors have started to insist on action. The fight for the rights of Jewish students was also bolstered by the decision in October 2010 by the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) to extend the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to protect Jewish students from harassment, intimidation and discrimination at federally funded schools.”

Roz Rothstein and Roberta Seid of StandWithUs published one of the pointers to Bard and Dawson, entitled Yes,  anti-Semitism is still a problem on campus.” Interestingly, Rothstein and Seid acknowledged that some California campuses might have calmed down during mid-2012.  They attributed this in part to the strongly worded statement by the University   of California’s President Mark Yudoff described above (February).   Indeed, many commentators observed that most of 2012 was relatively good for Jewish college students.  By some reports, anti-Israel and anti-Jewish students were more reluctant to make waves in light of pending legal challenges and occasional helpful statements by university administrators.  Anecdotally,  the parents of some extremist students are reportedly starting to tell them to stay out of trouble, focus on their studies, and get their degrees.  Anti-Israel activists claim that this has dampened some legitimate protest activity, which is debatable, but it appears that anti-Jewish bigots were more likely to think twice about harassing,  threatening or attacking Jewish students. 

NOVEMBER

In November, the Jewish Daily Forward honored LDB President Kenneth L. Marcus by including him in its Forward 50 listing of the “American Jews who made the most significant impact on the news in the past year.” The Forward described its 50 honorees as “the new faces of Jewish power,” predicting that “if Marcus has any say in it, we may witness a new era of Jewish advocacy.”

LDB gained additional national recognition in November for its first U.S. Supreme Court brief.  The National Law Journal featured LDB’s amicus brief in Fisher v. University of Texas as its nationwide "Brief of the Week."

Early in November, anti-Semitic vandalism was found at Wheaton’s Jewish life building.  LDB was been in touch with Wheaton officials, community members, and Northeastern regional leadership of sister Jewish organizations.  In this case, the university responded firmly and effectively to the incident, issuing a strong statement, holding an all-campus meeting, offering a reward for information about the perpetrators,  and taking other measures that reflect the seriousness of anti-Semitic incidents.  The Brandeis Center provided Wheaton administration with guidance on effective methods for addressing such incidents, and has praised them for their prompt and forceful actions. 

On November 9, Kenneth L. Marcus testified against anti-Arab and anti-Muslim discrimination at the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights’ briefing on, "Federal Civil Rights Engagement with Arab and Muslim American Communities Post 9/11."  Although our primary focus is on combating campus anti-Semitism, we are pleased to share our expertise in ways that may help other groups as well. 

The climate towards Israel on many college campuses badly deteriorated later in the month.   In the wake of Operation Pillar of Defense, countless anti-Israel activists staged significant anti-Israel activities, bringing the Middle East conflict to American higher education.  As the Israel Campus Coalition’s Steve Kuperberg wrote, the Gaza conflict “swept over American campuses in the past two weeks like a tidal wave.”  The Louis D.  Brandeis Center had cautioneduniversity leaders about the likelihood of such incidents shortly before they occurred and is now evaluating these situations and speaking with students at affected universities.

DECEMBER

On Sunday, December 2, 2012, Marcus chaired the opening panel at the Journal for the Study of Antisemitism’s symposium on "Contemporary Antisemitism in the UK" at the Wiener Library in London, England.  Marcus’ panel addressed "The Definition of Anti-Semitism," which will be the subject of his next book.

As we closed our first year, the Center launched a new initiative in Seattle to train attorneys nationwide on how to fight campus anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism through legal means.  Our goal is to create a significant nationwide corps of lawyers who are able to join LDB in protecting the rights of Jewish students and faculty.  These trainees will supplement LDB’s distinguished Legal Advisory Board. 

Finally,  on December 20, the Brandeis   Center announced another board expansion, appointing independent directors Rachel Lerner and Adam Feuerstein.  Rachel Lerman, a member of LDB’s Legal Advisory Board, is an appellate litigation partner at Akin Gump in Los   Angeles. Adam S. Feuerstein, a newcomer to LDB, is a tax specialist at PricewaterhouseCoopers in Washington,  D.C., with substantial experience counseling nonprofit organizations

 



 
 
  "We urge Jewish leaders to cooperate, in serious cases, with organizations like the Louis D. Brandeis Center … which have been established to combat campus anti-Semitism through legal means.”
 
 
National Conference on Jewish Affairs (May 3, 2012)
 
 
 
Students
Faculty
Administrators
If you are concerned about anti-Semitism on your campus, or if you seek advice about best practices, contact us.

Our attorneys and experts are here to help!
 
 
 
Campus Anti-Semitism
Over 40% of Jewish American college students report that they have experienced or are aware of anti-Semitism on their campuses. The U.S. Commission on Civil Rights has announced that campus anti-Semitism “is a serious problem which warrants further attention.” Campus anti-Semitism can include subjecting Jewish students to different treatment, harassment, violence or a hostile environment. In some cases, campus anti-Semitism is related to anti-Israel sentiment. In other cases, it is not. For most purposes, we define anti-Semitism according to the EUMC Working Definition of Anti-Semitism, as endorsed by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and U.S. Department of State.
 
 
 
Sign Up for The Brandeis Brief
 
 
Advisory Board Spotlight
 

Alvin H. Rosenfeld
Alvin Rosenfeld is Director of The Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism, the Irving M. Glazer Chair in Jewish Studies and Professor of Jewish Studies and English at Indiana University in Bloomington.
read more