SANTA CRUZ -- At a time when the mainstreaming and normalization of antisemitism is at an all-time high in the U.S., campus antisemitism watchdog group, AMCHA Initiative, released alarming new research which reveals school policies fail to address the predominant vehicle for antisemitism on campuses today, leaving Jewish students vulnerable and endangered.

“Whether antisemitism emanates from the right, in the form of classic antisemitism, or from the left, in the form of anti-Zionism, the rhetoric used to portray Jews is becoming increasingly similar: Jews possess undue power and privilege, which they use to control and oppress others. And while the antisemitism may be directed to different audiences, its intended effect is the same: to portray Jews as a threat to the common good, whose malevolent influence must be challenged and neutralized,” stated AMCHA Director Tammi Rossman-Benjamin. “Yet, as the problem is rapidly becoming more acute, with a new massive assault on Jewish identity on campuses nationwide, a thorough examination of university policies reveals Jewish students are left neglected, vulnerable, exposed and without recourse against antisemitic harassment.”

In the first-ever report of its kind, Falling Through the Cracks: How School Policies Deny Jewish Students Equal Protection from Campus Antisemitism, AMCHA’s researchers compared the two main mechanisms in place on campuses to protect students from harassment and bigotry: Non-Discrimination & Harassment Policies and Student Codes of Conduct. Non-Discrimination & Harassment Policies are designed to address instances of harassing behavior directed at students because of their membership in particular protected identity groups. While most minorities are covered by these policies, Jewish students who fall victim to anti-Zionist motivated harassment, the predominant form of antisemitism on campuses today, are often deemed ineligible for coverage under this policy, since many university administrators do not consider support for Israel an expression of a Jewish student’s religious beliefs or ethnicity. Jewish students who are not covered under the Non-Discrimination and Harassment Policy must therefore seek redress under the school’s general Code of Conduct.

However, a comparison of the Non-Discrimination & Harassment Policies and Student Codes of Conduct on 100 campuses most popular with Jewish students revealed that, despite the severity of the harassment, not one school afforded victims as much protection under its Code of Conduct as they received under the school’s Harassment Policy, likely leaving Jewish students unprotected from and vulnerable to the same harassment other students are protected from. The study found:

While every school’s Harassment Policy included verbal abuse as a form of harassment, nearly one-quarter of the Codes of Conduct did not include verbal abuse in their descriptions of prohibited behavior. Jewish students at a school with such a Code of Conduct who are not considered eligible for protection under the Harassment Policy have little or no administrative recourse from verbal harassment.

While every school’s Harassment policy defined harassment as conduct that limited, interfered with, or impaired a student’s ability to participate in campus life, less than 40% of the Codes of Conduct described harassing behavior in this way; 60% of schools most popular with Jewish students do not recognize this crucial impact of the harassing behavior, and are therefore less likely to treat such behavior as seriously as they do when directed at members of “protected” identity groups.

More than one-third of the schools included in their Codes of Conduct statements affirming that harassment of students in “protected” identity groups would receive more severe punitive sanctions than similar behavior directed against “unprotected” students, thereby creating a more robust deterrent against the harassment of students in “protected” identity groups than against Jewish victims who are not recognized as “protected” students by university administrators.

While all Harassment policies included a description of robust protection from retaliation for those who filed complaints, almost half of the school Codes did not even mention retaliation protection, leaving Jewish students at a school with such a Code of Conduct who are not considered eligible for protection under the Harassment Policy less likely to report harassing behavior to administrators for fear of retaliation.

In more than three-quarters of the schools, complaints of harassment targeting students in “protected” identity groups were handled by a special administrative office that focused on handling complaints of harassment and discrimination exclusively, while complaints about harassing conduct directed at Jewish students covered only by the school’s Code of Conduct were handled by the same office that handles all student conduct complaints.

The study further noted that the problem of unfair and inadequate protection from harassment for Jewish students is greatly exacerbated by the unequal way administrators treat verbal harassment under the school’s Harassment Policy versus its Code of Conduct. As most schools acknowledge, speech that meets the behavioral definition of harassment in their school’s Harassment Policy and targets students who are members of the protected classes covered by the policy is not considered free speech and will be subject to discipline. However, harassing speech directed at “unprotected” students – no matter how severe, pervasive or persistent – is considered free speech and will not be subject to discipline. The study explains that this disparity doubly disadvantages many Jewish students: “[N]ot only are their harassers afforded free speech protection that is, in effect, license to continue verbally harassing them, but their own freedom of speech and academic freedom is diminished by the harassment.” 

“Despite the fact that anti-Zionist motivated attacks often meet the threshold for harassment articulated in school’s harassment policies, the unfair discrepancy between these two policies means the exact same harmful behavior will be addressed promptly and vigorously for some students, but ignored or downplayed when it comes to Jewish students,” stated Rossman-Benjamin. “As the mainstreaming and normalization of antisemitism on social media and among entertainers, athletes, corporate executives and politicians continues at an alarming pace, it is essential that administrators address the institutional basis for the egregiously unfair treatment of Jewish students who fall victim to harassment and bullying.  

To fix this inequality, the report recommends requiring schools to use a single standard to judge objectionable behavior: language and action deemed unacceptable when directed at students from one group must be deemed unacceptable when directed at any student, irrespective of the motivation of the perpetrator or the identity of the victim. Under the First Amendment, all students - including Jewish students - have a constitutional right to be equally and adequately protected from behavior that takes away their own freedom of expression. And all students deserve an environment free from harassment that impedes their education and well-being. The researchers note that Harvard recently unveiled a draft policy that will do just that and can serve as a model for implementing this recommended approach. The Harvard draft policy guarantees unprotected students the administrative consideration of and response to harassing behavior equivalent to that granted protected students.

The report also recommends legislators consider new legislation, similar to the Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, that establishes a clear legal process and robust government enforcement mechanisms for ensuring that all students in state and federally funded schools are equally and adequately protected from harassing behavior.        


                                                                      RABBI'S CORNER               



The final words of the sidra are, "Go in peace to your father" (Gen. 44:17).

The phrase, "Go in peace" has become a widely used farewell wish. When people part from each other they pray and hope that G[-]d will protect both of them on their way home – an understandable sentiment when we bear in mind how difficult and uncertain travel was in those days and somehow still is despite all the improvements in modes of transport.

No wonder the characteristic Jewish greeting both on arrival and departure is "Shalom!"

There are three criteria of shalom found a little earlier in the Book of B’reshit when we read, "And Jacob came 'shalem' to the city of Shechem" (Gen. 33:18). Rashi tells us in his commentary that you are "shalem", complete, if you are complete in body and have no injuries; complete financially, with your possessions intact; and complete intellectually, with your mind and memory unaffected by where you have been and what you have seen.  Go in peace, safely and complete!

We are almost at the end ("mikketz") of the Book of B’reshit and we wonder why this and the other Books of the Bible are regarded as so important.

What do we learn from the Bible? Human interest stories? Yes, fine narratives, about believable human beings. Poems? Yes, remarkable works of world literature. History? Yes, the persons and periods of both Jewish and human history. Law? In the literal sense, yes: what to do and what not to do. But above all, ethical conduct – how to behave in society.

Gerson Cohen wrote in "The Jewish Digest" of September 1959, "No faithful Jew would understand the statement that business is business and not religion. No, the rabbis remonstrated, business is very much the business of religion."

So what if it’s a cut-throat world and it’s hard to be honest in business and in everything? Judaism has a teaching, "In a place where there are no men, you must try to be a man!"

Yes, these words come from the Mishnah and not from the Bible, but they are Biblical teaching at its best. If the Bible is a book of law, it is even more: a book that posits a law above the law.

Listen to Gerson Cohen again: "It does of course contain a code of law but over its code of law it superimposes a higher level of behavior, a criterion of righteousness which is far more demanding than the minimum of the law.

"Over and above the law that is enforceable by the court, there is the law of G[-]d which seeks to make man go far beyond the requirements of the police authority of society."


Birthright Israel, a program that since 1999 has brought more than 800,000 young Jewish adults on a ten-day trip to Israel to introduce them to the country’s ancient roots and modern wonders, significantly strengthens American Jewish young adults’ connection to Israel and commitment to leading Jewishly engaged lives. This finding was based on recent analyses of the Pew Research Center’s survey of nearly 5,000 American Jews conducted from late 2019 through mid-2020 and released last year.

“Pew’s national survey provides independent evidence of Birthright’s broad impact on a generation of American Jews,” Professor Leonard Saxe said.

Data from Pew’s 2020 study validates program’s significant impact on attachment to Israel, belonging to the Jewish people and engagement with Jewish life 
Pew’s survey included questions about Jewish identity, religious observance, cultural involvement, connections and attitudes toward Israel, perceptions of anti-Semitism and political leanings. Professor Leonard Saxe, the director of the Cohen Center for Modern Jewish Studies at Brandeis University and his team analyzed the raw data made available by the Pew Center. The findings, to appear in the academic journal Contemporary Jewry demonstrate that, compared to younger adult respondents with similar Jewish backgrounds who did not visit Israel, Birthright participants were:

85% more likely to be “somewhat/very” attached to Israel (63%, compared to 34%)
54% more likely to feel a “great deal” of belonging to the Jewish people (40%, compared to 26%)
58% more likely to feel “a lot” in common with Israeli Jews (71%, compared to 45%)
160% more likely to have a spouse who is Jewish (39%, compared to 15%)
45% more likely to have attended a Seder the previous Passover (77%, compared to 53%)
53% more likely to have donated to a Jewish charity (29%, compared to 19%)
“Pew’s 2020 survey of American Jews provides independent evidence of Birthright’s broad impact on the American Jewish community. This is the first time there is enough data from a national study of Jews, like the Pew survey, to evaluate the effects of a specific Jewish program like Birthright. The findings validate multiple evaluation studies of Birthright’s impact conducted over the past 20 years,” Saxe said. “They demonstrate that Birthright Israel creates meaningful changes in Jewish identity and engagement that are shaping the future of American Jewish life.”

Professor Saxe and colleagues’ analyses of the Pew data estimated that among age eligible Jews (18-46 at the time of the survey), 25 percent of those who were not raised Orthodox have participated in Birthright. Many of the younger people in this group remain eligible to participate and many of the older individuals had only a narrow window during which they could have participated. Nearly 30% of Jewish parents with an adult child have a child who participated.  According to Pew, 7.5 million Jews live in the United States, including 5.8 million adults of whom 2.6 million were part of the age eligible Birthright cohort.  


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           25 Kislev - 1 Tevet, 5783                                           July 17. 2023 -- THE JEWISH OBSERVER, LOS ANGELES -- 673rd Web Ed.