Consensus Statement on Strategies to Counter anti-Jewish and anti-Israel Campus Activity Approved by JCPA Board
NEW YORK - The board of directors of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs overwhelmingly endorsed a statement calling for campus leaders to do more to combat anti-Jewish and anti-Israel activity and for Jewish groups to work with the campus community to develop consensus strategies including education and programming that de-escalate conflict. The statement recognizes the important civil rights Jews and other members of protected groups have to ensure that a school eliminates hostile environments. The statement will now move to the Plenum of JCPA’s 14 national and 125 community member agencies (CRCs) for consideration as a policy resolution when it meets this May in Detroit.
The board statement was adopted against a backdrop of increased anti-Israel and anti-Jewish activity on numerous campuses and a Department of Education directive that it will use a 60’s era civil rights law to fight some forms of discrimination based on religious identity.
“While most Jewish students feel secure, we are pained that some are harassed and worse – and we must all do more to protect them,” said JCPA Chair Dr. Conrad Giles. “The statement affirms the importance of the civil rights remedy for certain circumstances but also reminds us it should not be used indiscriminately. Sometimes the best response is education, programming, and working with school administrations – and sometimes it is a legal approach. The board statement speaks to all of these strategies. We do not need to trade our commitment to academic freedom for the security of our students. Indeed, we must insist on both."
“Schools must prepare students for the ‘real world’ – and that means helping them speak up, to learn to live with different perspectives, but always to defend themselves from assaults on their body and spirit,” said JCPA President Rabbi Steve Gutow. “We are taught that there is a time to break down and a time to build up. And there is a time to foster dialogue just as there is a time to go to court.”
“It is important for the Jewish community to serve as a resource and to offer campus groups assistance, as needed, to help them develop and implement strategies to protect Jewish students on campus and allow them to openly express their support for Israel,” reads the statement. “Such strategies include: working with school administrators, faculty and students to encourage clear statements rejecting harassment and promoting respect; finding ways to de-escalate conflict while promoting a climate in which Jewish students are physically secure and comfortable participating fully in campus life; and insisting on serious and thorough investigations of individual complaints, including disciplinary action as appropriate.”
The statement notes that “Anti-Semitism is often best countered when the remedies sought are seen as in harmony with, rather than in opposition to notions of free speech.”
The community relations field should “Work with faculty, administrators, and students to maintain an atmosphere of civility and develop an appropriate forum for presentation and discussion of opposing views that does not infringe on student and faculty rights, including those eligible for Title VI protection.”