Rutgers University (illustrative)
Rutgers University (illustrative) iStock

The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) is calling on the recently confirmed U.S. Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Catherine E. Lhamon, to have the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) prioritize fighting campus anti-Semitism.

The ZOA noted that a case against Rutgers University has been pending at OCR for over 10 years.

In a November 4 letter, the ZOA noted that with a recently ADL and Hillel International survey finding that 43 percent of Jewish college students experienced or witnessed antisemitic activity in the past year, with countless others not reporting, “these findings should raise alarm bells for you given that OCR has allowed three student-supported antisemitism cases filed by the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act to stagnate at the agency.”

The ZOA furnished Assistant Secretary Lhamon with a timeline for each of the three cases which “unfortunately shows that OCR has not made combating anti-Semitism the priority this serious and growing problem requires,” they wrote.

Furthermore, the ZOA urged “OCR to finally treat these Title VI anti-Semitism cases with the vigilance and seriousness they deserve, and give them the prompt, full and fair attention that is long overdue.”

The advocacy organization called on OCR to up the fight against campus anti-Semitism with “force and rigor” as the OCR was required to do in its last annual report to the secretary of education, the president and Congress.

“With anti-Semitism rising at alarming rates in the U.S. and around the world, including on our college campuses, it is beyond irresponsible for the federal agency mandated to address discrimination in education to respond to these cases – which document in horrifying detail how Jewish students are being threatened and harassed – with radio silence. Jewish students have the right to depend on their government to do its job and protect them from a hostile learning environment. The ZOA’s letter to the new Assistant Security for Civil Rights should be a wake-up call to OCR, to be vigilant in protecting the civil rights of Jewish students.”

The ZOA Center for Law and Justice’s director, Susan B. Tuchman, added that “for understandable reasons, many Jewish students are reluctant to come forward to report their experiences with anti-Semtism.”

Given that fact, she said it is “such an affront to Jewish students who do come forward to see OCR take no action, sometimes for years, after they’ve already endured being harassed and intimidated simply because they are expressing their Jewish identity."

She continued: "The students who supported our Title VI complaint against Rutgers graduated years ago. Some are married and have their own children. They never got the justice they deserve. It’s crucial that OCR start responding to campus anti-Semtism promptly and strongly, and let publicly funded schools know that they will be held accountable under the law if they fail to protect their Jewish students.”

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