December 11, 2019
News Press Release

ZOA Thanks President Trump & Jared Kushner for Wonderful 2019 Hanukkah Gift: An Effective Executive Order to Protect Jewish Students Facing Growing Campus Antisemitism

Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) President Morton A. Klein, ZOA Chairman Mark Levenson, Esq., and Susan Tuchman, Esq., ZOA’s Director of Law and Justice, and staff and members wholeheartedly thank President Donald Trump and Jared Kushner for their wonderful planned Hanukkah gift to beleaguered Jewish students today.  

The President will issue an executive order confirming that the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title VI protections apply to Jewish students suffering from the growing scourge of antisemitic harassment, intimidation, discrimination and violence on college campuses.  The executive order will also strengthen these protections by referring to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism.  The IHRA definition covers many of the anti-Jewish outrages that we have been seeing on college campuses during the past two decades, frequently led by the vicious antisemitic hate group Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), including (SJP)’s calls for “intifada” (violence against Jews and the murder of Jews), dehumanizing Jews, demonizing Israel, and SJP’s calls to throw Jews off campuses, and destroy Israel.   

The executive order makes it clear that Judaism is not only a faith; the Jews are also a people, and thus qualify for Title VI protection.  We agree.  Throughout the millennia, the Jewish people have identified as both a faith and a people, a nation – Am Yisrael Chai!  The nation of Israel lives.

The president’s executive order is particularly welcome here at ZOA, because it strengthens ZOA’s long-running legal efforts to protect Jewish and pro-Israel students.  ZOA’s Center for Law and Justice, directed by Susan B. Tuchman, Esq., led a six-year battle that, in 2010, culminated in the U.S. Department of Education (DOE), which enforces Title VI, changing its interpretation of the law to recognize that Jewish students who face discrimination based on their actual or perceived ancestry or ethnic characteristics are entitled to Title VI’s protections.

Ever since then, ZOA’s Center for Law and Justice has been employing Title VI to assist Jewish and pro-Israel students on American college campuses who are being harassed and discriminated against, and denied their right to a safe, welcoming learning environment.   For instance ZOA’s Title VI complaint regarding an antisemitic hate-fest at the University of North Carolina resulted in UNC and Duke agreeing to adopt “zero-tolerance” for antisemitism policies and training programs, and to be monitored for the next three years.   (See “What ZOA’s Legal Victory Means for Jewish Students Across the Country – Jewish Telegraphic Agency,”  by Susan B. Tuchman and Morton A. Klein, JTA, Nov. 27, 2019.)  ZOA’s landmark UNC and Duke victory was referenced in many of the articles discussing today’s executive order.

President Trump’s executive order will be a potent tool in ZOA’s ongoing battles throughout the country to protect Jewish students.  

ZOA also wishes to thank Jared Kushner for his efforts to enact this vital executive order.

President Trump’s executive order is also especially welcome because the House of Representatives keeps delaying a vote on the bi-partisan legislation to strengthen Title VI.  On December 1, 2016, the Senate unanimously passed the bipartisan “Anti-Semitism Awareness Act” to improve the enforcement of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act to protect Jewish students from antisemitic harassment and intimidation at federally-funded schools.   (See “ZOA Applauds Bill Improving Title VI Protections for Jewish Students,” Dec. 5, 2016.)   ZOA hopes that the House will finally vote on this legislation, and add its voice to the crucial efforts to strengthen protections from antisemitic harassment and intimidation on college campuses.

Appallingly, even before the president has inked his name to his executive order, hostile-to-Israel groups including J Street are falsely claiming that the order violates “free speech.”  It’s very peculiar how no one complains about “free speech” when any other group is protected from harassment and discrimination.  It seems that it’s only when Jews are offered the same protections as other groups, that certain people yell “free speech.”  

ZOA has previously answered the false claims of those who would stop Jewish students from obtaining and employing the hard-won legal protections that other groups enjoy.  (See, e.g., “ZOA Op-Ed: Jewish Leaders Must Urge Students: Use Title VI to Fight Anti-Semitism,” by Morton A. Klein and Susan B. Tuchman, Esq., New Jersey Jewish News, Nov. 19, 2018.)

“Let us be clear about two points. First, this executive order is not and should not be a partisan matter. President Trump has taken a step that undeniably will help protect Jewish students and help fight anti-Semitism. Anyone who claims to care about the rise in this ugly hatred and bigotry, and about assuring Jewish students the safe and welcoming campus environment that every student deserves, should be standing with President Trump on this issue and applauding the incredible step he has taken. Now Jewish students will finally have the same legal protections from harassment and discrimination that other ethnic and racial groups have enjoyed for more than 50 years, since Title VI was enacted in 1964.

“Second, despite what Israel-bashers and others may claim, there is nothing about this executive order that will chill free speech or prevent criticism of Israel. The executive order will not change one iota the way in which Title VI is enforced. We expect that OCR will continue to enforce Title VI consistent with what the First Amendment requires.

“We thank President Trump for taking this important step which should be applauded by Jews and non-Jews everywhere. In addition, we thank Jared Kushner, the President’s son-in-law and senior advisor, who reportedly pushed for this executive order. We also thank Assistant Secretary Kenneth Marcus for his record of public service and exemplary leadership of OCR. Among his many achievements, it was under Mr. Marcus’ leadership at OCR in 2004 that OCR extended the protections of Title VI to Arab Muslim, Sikh and Jewish students, recognizing that OCR could not turn its back on victims of discrimination because they are members of a group that share both religious and ethnic characteristics. 

“Last but not least, we thank all of the many students we have been privileged to work with over the years in our fight against campus anti-Semitism. To all of these amazing individuals – who attended UC Irvine, UC Berkeley, Brooklyn College, Hunter College and other City University of New York campuses, Rutgers University, Northeastern University and so many other schools – we commend you from the bottom of our hearts for your courage, your resilience, and your commitment to your right to be proud Jews and Zionists on your respective campuses.  

Thank you again, President Trump, for brightening the Hanukkah of Jewish students throughout our great American nation.