HomeMay 2012Looking for the Sunlight

Looking for the Sunlight

What are the legal rights of Jewish students? What’s the reality of claims about anti-Semitism on local campuses? Is it true that some professors have used their class websites for the purpose of promoting the academic and cultural boycott of Israel? What can do students do about it? These were some of the questions posed by the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) at a presentation called “Combatting Anti-Semitism and Anti-Zionism on College Campuses” in March.

ZOA speakers, who are personally and professionally involved in this matter, shared their expertise with about 100 people in a timely discussion geared to students, parents and educators on how to recognize and respond effectively to anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism on campus,. The organization shares the axiom of former ZOA President Justice Louis D. Brandeis that “sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants.” Presenters were:

Susan Tuchman, Esq. Director, ZOA’s Center
for Law and Justice

Named in 2006 by the Forward newspaper as one of 50 most influential members of the Jewish community, Tuchman has effectively advocated for Jewish students facing anti-Semitism and Israel-bashing on their college campuses. Under her leadership, the ZOA filed a landmark civil rights complaint on behalf of Jewish students at UC Irvine who allegedly had been subjected to years of anti-Semitic harassment and intimidation. Largely due to the ZOA’s efforts, the U.S. Department of Education issued a new policy in October 2010, making it clear that Jewish students at federally-funded schools are protected from anti-Semitic harassment and intimidation under federal law.

Tammi Rossman-Benjamin Lecturer in Hebrew
and Jewish Studies,
UC Santa Cruz

Benjamin writes and lectures on academic anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism and on the growing threat to the safety of Jewish college students. She co-chaired a 2010 scholarly workshop at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. entitled “Contemporary Anti-Semitism in Higher Education.” Her complaint under Title VI of the 1964 U.S. Civil Rights Law, alleging harassment and intimidation of Jewish students at UC Santa Cruz, is currently under investigation by the Department of Education.

Dr. Leila Beckwith Professor Emerita
in Pediatrics, UCLA

Dr. Beckwith is a developmental psychologist who has taught and conducted research for more than 30 years. The Second Intifada and the 9-11 assault against America led her to become politically active within the University of California system. Ms. Rossman-Benjamin and Dr. Beckwith recently founded the AMCHA Initiative, a grass-roots advocacy coalition dedicated to protecting Jewish students on campuses within California. They also co-founded the Investigative Taskforce on Campus Anti-Semitism, which investigates and reports on campus incidents throughout the entire U.S. and makes recommendations for improvement.

The presentation offered information on the extent of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism on college campuses, including Cal State and University of California systems as well as private colleges, where and how anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism are most often encountered (e.g. classrooms, anti-Israel rallies, campus clubs, actions and inaction by administrators), how to recognize anti-Semitic and anti-Zionist sentiment and harassment, how to tell the difference between legitimate criticism of Israel and anti-Semitism, the rights of Jewish students under United States law and available legal tools and steps students should take if they fall victim to anti-Semitism. Also cited were reasons behind the demonization of Israel on campus.


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