Contact: Sarah Stern
Action Alert: Help Our Jewish and Zionist Students Throughout the United States: Tell Your Member of Congress to Support and to Pass The Anti-Semitism Awareness Act
March 30, 2023
As most of you are already aware, antisemitism has reached proportions that have never before been seen within the United States. The Anti-Defamation League, (ADL), has been reporting on these trends since 1979, and never before have they seen a more alarming year than 2022. On March 23, 2023, they came out with their most recent report of 3,697 assaults—that is 10 per day. And most Jews who have been assaulted in an antisemitic incident do not pick up the phone and call the ADL, the FBI, or the police.
Every single one of us, who are Jews, have felt this in some form. According to a recent poll by the American Jewish Committee, fully 89 percent of American Jews believe that antisemitism in the United States is a problem, and 82 percent say it has increased over the last 5 years.
Most assuredly, however, it has been our Jewish students on college campuses who have been on the front lines. We, almost daily, receive reports from students who have felt that their very identities, as Jews and as Zionists, are under constant assault from both their professors and their peers. It has reached the point where, according to a recent poll by Stopantisemitism.org, fully 55 percent of American Jewish students feel have felt some antisemitism on their college campuses, 73 percent feel it is necessary to conceal their Jewish identities, or risk derision, social exclusion, constant debasement, and humiliation.
Every other minority group, Hispanics, Blacks, LGBT, and the handicapped, receive some sort of protection, especially in educational settings under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. However, the minority groups that receive absolutely no protection are Jewish and Zionist students. We are attempting to simply offer our Jewish students the very same protections that any other minority group gets within educational settings today.
As many of you are aware, an assault on the Jewish collective, the state of Israel, and its supporters is the 21st form of antisemitism. It is a thinly veiled mask that easily devolves into attacks on Jewish students, not only throughout American college campuses but even in American elementary and high schools. Throughout the United States, swastikas, a foreboding symbol of the potential and real genocide of our people, have been found on the dorm rooms of Jewish students and on walls, hallways, and the lockers of Jewish high schoolers.
There are far too many examples to be able to succinctly write about, but here are simply a few:
What the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act does is simply codify The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance Working Definition of Anti-Semitism (IHRA).
Why is this Important?
As opposed to other definitions of anti-Semitism, the IHRA definition includes, among other examples of contemporary anti-Semitism, “Denying Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g. by claiming that the existence of a state of Israel is a racist endeavor.” Other examples include, “Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.” And “Using the symbols and images associated with classic anti-Semitism, (e.g. claims of Jews killing Jesus and blood libel) to characterize Israel or Israelis.”
Is this an Assault on Free Speech”?
Absolutely not. As with other minority groups, there are certain protections and red lines that are too far to cross within our nation’s college campuses. If one were to utter the “N” word on a college campus, one would immediately face punitive action, as well as he or she should.
No one is saying that one cannot debate certain policies of the current government of the state of Israel, just as one can debate the policies of the United States or France. However, we draw a red line at the speech that questions Israel’s very right to exist, which is so ubiquitous on college campuses today that Jewish students are feeling, threatened, intimidated, and assailed at the very core of their beings.
Beyond that, we believe that the university is in a unique position as the incubator of ideas. If it is “fair game” to target just one ethnic-religious group, it molds the ideas of future generations of American citizens and thought leaders.
Unfortunately, this has been going on, on college campuses for far too long and has already shown its corrosive effects on our society. That is why in today’s world, comedians, Hollywood personalities, business executives, and politicians feel that Israel and the Jewish people are the one nation and ethnic group that is acceptable to demonize.
Why Is This Necessary if There is an Executive Order?
On December 11, 2019, President Donald Trump issued Executive Order 13899 on Combatting Anti-Semitism, which incorporates the IHRA Working Definition of Anti-Semitism.
And on January 4, 2023, Assistant Secretary Catherine E. Lhamon upheld that Executive Order, and it is part of the Office of Civil Rights of the US Department of Education’s current policy guidelines.
This proves that by accepting the IHRA definition, we are not enforcing one point of view or definition of anti-Semitism upon the Department of Education, contrary to some rumors on Capitol Hill.
However, there is a huge difference between an Act of Law and an Executive Order. An act of law does not sunset with any particular presidential administration. It also requires the Office of Civil Rights of the Department of Education to offer workshops, booklets, and guidance to university administrators throughout the country, as they do with the rights of other minority groups, helping them to identify acts of anti-Semitism when they occur.
Where-ever anti-Semitism exists, there is a corrosive rot within a society. As the late Chief Rabbi, Lord Jonathan Sacks said, “What starts with the Jews, never ends with just the Jews.”
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