ZOA Praises Sen. Arlen Specter For Urging U.S. Education Sec’y
February 9, 2010

The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) praised Senator Arlen Specter (D-PA) today, for calling on the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) to enforce Title VI of the Civil Right Act of 1964 to protect Jewish college students from anti-Semitic discrimination.  Title VI prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin by recipients of federal funding, including colleges and universities.  If a recipient violates Title VI, its funding may be terminated.


In a letter to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan dated February 4, 2010, Senator Specter wrote, “There has been some concern that the OCR may be not enforcing Title VI when Jewish students complain of discrimination, on the theory that such discrimination may be grounded solely in religion and not race, color, or national origin.”  The Senator requested “clarification of the OCR’s policy for enforcing Title VI.”  He asked Secretary Duncan to “verify that the OCR interprets Title VI to protect to [sic] Jewish students from anti-Semitic discrimination.”  The Senator also called on Secretary Duncan to “confirm that the OCR actively enforces the provisions of Title VI against colleges and universities that allow anti-Semitic discrimination.” 


 In a handwritten note on the letter, Senator Specter added, “I hope we can agree the statute [Title VI] covers Jewish students without additional legislation.”  (To read the Senator’s letter, click here.)


The ZOA’s National President, Morton A. Klein, and the Director of the ZOA’s Center for Law and Justice, Susan B. Tuchman, Esq., applauded Senator Specter’s letter to Secretary Duncan:  “We commend Senator Specter’s commitment to ensuring that Jewish students have the same civil rights protections as other ethnic and racial groups, when they face harassment, intimidation or discrimination on their campuses.


“Senator Specter’s call for OCR to actively enforce Title VI to protect Jewish students from anti-Semitism is exactly what the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights recommended when it examined the problem of campus anti-Semitism in 2005.  The Commission recognized that the problem is serious, and that among the ways it is being expressed is through the dissemination of anti-Zionist and anti-Israel propaganda that goes beyond legitimate discourse about foreign policy.  Condemning such conduct, the Commission stated, ‘Anti-Semitic bigotry is no less morally deplorable when camouflaged as anti-Israelism or anti-Zionism.’ 


“Enforcing Title VI to protect against anti-Semitism was in fact OCR policy.  In 2004, OCR made this policy clear, declaring that it could not ‘turn its back on victims of anti-Semitism on the grounds that Jewish heritage may include both religious and ethnic characteristics.’  Unfortunately, under new leadership, OCR retreated from this sound public policy.  We hope that Senator Specter’s powerful letter will prompt Secretary Duncan to ensure that this much-needed policy is reinstated.”

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