Hillel Welcomes Department of Education Anti-Semitism Ruling

October 27, 2010
Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life welcomes a Department of Education decision that gives greater protection against anti-Semitism to Jewish students from primary school through college.

“This DOE decision will help to foster civility on college campuses and contribute to an environment in which Jewish students will feel even more comfortable exploring and celebrating their Jewish identity,” says Hillel President Wayne L. Firestone.

The DOE ruling appears in an October 26, 2010 “Dear Colleague” letter to educational institutions that receive federal funds. In the letter, the Office of Civil Rights explains that “[w]hile  Title  VI [of the 1964 Civil Rights Act] does  not  cover  discrimination  based  solely  on  religion,  groups  that  face  discrimination  on  the  basis  of  actual  or  perceived  shared  ancestry  or  ethnic  characteristics  may  not  be  denied  protection  under  Title  VI  on  the  ground  that  they  also  share  a  common  faith. These  principles  apply  not  just  to  Jewish  students,  but  also  to  students  from  any  discrete  religious  group  that  shares,  or  is  perceived  to  share,  ancestry  or  ethnic  characteristics  (e.g.,  Muslims  or  Sikhs).”

The DOE specifies that school  districts  and institutions of higher education “may  violate  these  civil  rights  statutes  and  the  Department’s  implementing  regulations  when  peer  harassment  based  on  race,  color,  national  origin,  sex,  or  disability  is  sufficiently  serious  that  it  creates  a  hostile  environment  and  such  harassment  is  encouraged,  tolerated,  not  adequately  addressed,  or  ignored  by  school  employees.”

Hillel participated in a coalition of Jewish organizations that has urged the DOE to apply Title VI to Jewish students. Coalition members included the American Jewish Committee, Anti-Defamation League, B’nai B’rith International, Institute for Jewish and Community Research, Jewish Council for Public Affairs, Jewish Federations of North America, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, Zionist Organization of America.

A copy of the Dear Colleague letter may be obtained HERE.

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