August 7, 2020
News Press Release

ZOA Condemns Antisemitic/Israel-Bashing Harassment Suffered By USC Student Leader

The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) strongly condemns the antisemitic harassment that Jewish student leader Rose Ritch was subjected to at the University of Southern California (USC), and calls on the USC administration to publicly acknowledge and condemn the antisemitism at USC, publicly condemn the perpetrators by name and hold them accountable under USC rules and policies, and mandate training on antisemitism in all its forms for all students, faculty and staff.

Earlier this week, USC student government vice president Rose Ritch resigned from her position after she was harassed for expressing her Jewish identity and support for Israel. In her public statement of resignation on August 5, Ritch painfully explained the four weeks of antisemitic hostility she had been enduring, which necessitated her resignation “to protect my physical safety on campus and my mental health”:

[B]ecause I openly identify as a Zionist, a supporter of Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, I have been accused by a group of students of being unsuitable as a student leader. I have been told that my support for Israel has made me complicit in racism, and that, by association, I am racist. Students launched an aggressive social media campaign to “impeach my Zionist a**. This is antisemitism, and cannot be tolerated at a University that proclaims to “nurture an environment of mutual respect and tolerance.”

Responding to Ritch’s resignation in an August 6 letter to the USC community, USC President Carol Folt expressed her belief that it is “critically important to state explicitly and unequivocally that anti-Semitism in all of its forms is a profound betrayal of our principles and has no place at the university.” Folt also stated that “bias or prejudice must be condemned.” She announced a new university-wide initiative launched by the USC Shoah Foundation, “Stronger than Hate,” and invited everyone to sign up for it.

ZOA National President Morton A. Klein and Chairman of the Board Mark Levenson, Esq. stated, “First, our hearts at ZOA go out to Rose Ritch who was harassed and attacked for one reason only: She is a proud Jew and Zionist. That she felt that because of her Jewish identity, she could not remain a student government leader without sacrificing her health and safety, is a shameful reflection on USC.

“USC President Folt’s statement was a good beginning, but did not go far enough to address this horrific and unacceptable situation. Folt did not acknowledge that antisemitism is a serious problem on her own campus nor did she make it clear that there will be zero tolerance for it at USC. Folt must issue a clearer, stronger statement right away.

“Second, Folt did not condemn Rose Ritch’s harassers. She must condemn these antisemites by name, and ensure that they are punished consistent with USC rules and policies.

“Finally, while Folt announced a new ‘Stronger than Hate’ program, it is voluntary — not mandatory. Folt must mandate training on antisemitism for every student, staff and faculty member at USC. As Rose Ritch’s experience tragically shows, this university community sorely needs it.”

Susan B. Tuchman, Esq., Director of the ZOA’s Center for Law and Justice, and Jonathan Ginsburg, Managing Director of ZOA Campus, stated, “No student – at USC or anywhere else – should have to worry that they cannot express their Jewish identity and their love for the Jewish State of Israel, one of America’s most important and loyal allies, for fear of negative consequences. Particularly in this time of rising antisemitism and Israel-bashing, USC must take the additional steps the ZOA is recommending, if the university is truly committed to eradicating Jew-hatred on its campus.”