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.