Publications : Opinion Pieces  

Letters: Anti-Semitism Awareness Act needed to fight alarming trend

Aviva Vogelstein, The Hill

March 1, 2017

Rahul Saksena’s distortion of the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act (AAA) in a Feb. 12 op-ed titled “Palestinians deserve justice too”, is highly concerning.  The AAA is a bipartisan bill introduced by Sens. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) and Bob Casey (D-Pa.) to tackle the growing anti-Semitism plaguing Jewish college students.

According to the latest FBI tracking, the majority of anti-religious hate crimes were motivated by anti-Semitism. And research continues to show that it is Jewish students who are experiencing the brunt of this wave. Frighteningly, anti-Semitism is spiking at an alarming rate on college campuses. In the midst of this surge, though, the Department of Education has been stymied by anti-Semitism cases, especially when they involve the most prevalent modern forms of campus anti-Semitism, those in which anti-Jewish hatred is shrouded in anti-Zionism.

The AAA is a simple yet critical solution to this problem. It calls on the Department of Education to take into consideration the single most authoritative definition of anti-Semitism in the U.S., the one used worldwide by the State Department, when determining the intent of unprotected activities such as, assault, battery and vandalism. The world’s most preeminent scholars of anti-Semitism endorse the State Department’s definition, global leaders agree with it and student governments at several institutions, such as U.C. Berkeley, UCLA, U.C. Santa Barbara, Indiana University, Ryerson University and Capital University, have adopted it.  In fact, the United Kingdom’s recently adopted definition of anti-Semitism is substantially the same as the U.S. State Department’s and is supported by more than 50 countries.

Contrary to Mr. Saksena’s incorrect claims, the AAA would not limit speech at all. In fact, much anti-Semitic hate speech is constitutionally protected, just like racist and sexist speech. The bill would not change that. Simply put, under the AAA, the Department of Education may consider an assailant’s words, using the State Department’s definition, to ascertain the intent of unprotected actions.

Considering the bill’s critical mission and careful balance to address Jew-hatred while steering clear of constitutionally protected speech, it is no surprise it passed the Senate unanimously in the 114th Congress. The 115th Congress should take action on this bill right away to curb this resurgence in anti-Semitism before it escalates further.

If you are concerned about anti-Semitism on your campus, or if you seek advice about best practices, contact us.

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Research Articles
and Reports
Over 50% of Jewish American college students report that they experienced or witnessed anti-Semitism on their campuses during the 2013-2014 academic year. 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 U.S. Department of State definition of anti-Semitism. .
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Advisory Board Spotlight

Adam S. Feuerstein
Adam S. Feuerstein is a Principal at PricewaterhouseCoopers and Adjunct Professor at Georgetown Law. His practice encompasses a broad range of transactional and tax planning matters.
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