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campus concerns

Lawmakers press Department of Education on campus antisemitism

A bipartisan group of House members pressed the Department of Education for information on efforts to resolve a backlog of investigations of antisemitic incidents

Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

Rep. Kathy Manning (D-NC) attends the House Education and Labor Committee hearing titled Examining the Policies and Priorities of the U.S. Department of Labor, in Rayburn Building on Tuesday, June 14, 2022.

A bipartisan group of 84 lawmakers wrote to Education Secretary Miguel Cardona pressing for information on the Department of Education’s plans to resolve a backlog of investigations into campus antisemitism and improve protections for Jewish students, Jewish Insider has learned.

The lawmakers, led by Reps. Kathy Manning (D-NC) and Chris Smith (R-NJ) and Sens. Jacky Rosen (D-NV) and James Lankford (R-OK), the leaders of the bipartisan antisemitism task forces in each chamber, wrote in a letter obtained by JI that the department “has a key role to play in the federal government’s efforts to counter antisemitism” and that they are “deeply concerned about the rise of antisemitic incidents at universities and college campuses.”

The House and Senate members pressed the department to “swiftly investigate” pending complaints of antisemitism, and asked for answers on how it is working to resolve a backlog of cases and what additional resources it needs to do so.

They also called on the department to “undertake concerted efforts” to encourage reporting antisemitic incidents on campuses, which they described as “woefully underreported.” 

They asked how the department plans to help schools improve reporting of antisemitic incidents on their campuses, communicate best practices and provide assistance to schools in ensuring civil rights protections for Jewish students, and ensure that students and others are familiar with resources for addressing discrimination.

The lawmakers requested a briefing from Department of Education officials by the end of September on its efforts to implement steps outlined in the administration’s antisemitism strategy.

They also urged the department to continue to utilize the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of antisemitism in evaluating incidents of antisemitism on campuses and enforcing civil rights law, and express support for plans for a proposal to issue new regulations on combating antisemitism on campuses.

Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Roger Marshall (R-KS) also signed the letter, along with 78 House members from across the political spectrum: Reps. Jake Auchincloss (D-MA), Don Bacon (R-NE), Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR), Brendan Boyle (D-PA), Shontel Brown (D-OH), Nikki Budzinski (D-IL), Salud Carbajal (D-CA), Mike Carey (R-OH), André Carson (D-IN), Earl Carter (R-GA), Matt Cartwright (D-PA), Lori Chavez-DeRemer (R-OR), Sheila Cherfilus-McCormick (D-FL), Emmanuel Cleaver (D-MO), Steve Cohen (D-TN), Gerald Connolly (D-VA), Jim Costa (D-CA), Jason Crow (D-CO), Donald Davis (D-NC), Anthony D’Esposito (R-NY), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Mike Flood (R-NE), Lois Frankel (D-FL), Andrew Garbarino (R-NY), Daniel Goldman (D-NY), Jennifer González-Colón (R-PR), Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ), Brian Higgins (D-NY), Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA), Bill Johnson (R-OH), Henry Johnson (D-GA), Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), Thomas Kean (R-NJ), Young Kim (R-CA), David Kustoff (R-TN), Nick LaLota (R-NY), Doug LaMalfa (R-CA), Doug Lamborn (R-CO), Greg Landsman (D-OH), Michael Lawler (R-NY), Susie Lee (D-NV), Ted Lieu (D-CA), Grace Meng (D-NY), Kweisi Mfume (D-MD), Max Miller (R-OH), Mark Molinaro (R-NY), Jared Moskowitz (D-FL), Frank Mrvan (D-IN), Grace Napolitano (D-CA), Wiley Nickel (D-NC), Donald Norcross (D-NJ), Frank Pallone (D-NJ), Scott Peters (D-CA), Dean Phillips (D-MN), Deborah Ross (D-NC), Pat Ryan (D-NY), Adam Schiff (D-CA), Brad Schneider (D-IL), Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ), Abigail Spanberger (D-VA), Haley Stevens (D-MI), Claudia Tenney (R-NY), Dina Titus (D-NV), Paul Tonko (D-NY), Ritchie Torres (D-NY), Jeff Van Drew (R-NJ), Marc Veasey (D-TX), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ), Nikema Williams (D-GA), Frederica Wilson (D-FL), and Joe Wilson (R-SC). 

The American Jewish Committee, Anti-Defamation League and Jewish Federations of North America also expressed support for the inquiry.

Julie Fishman Rayman, AJC’s senior director for policy and political affairs, highlighted AJC survey data showing that around 20% of Jewish students hide their Jewish identity or feel uncomfortable or unsafe on campus.

“That is why we welcome the Department of Education’s commitments to protect students on campus and appreciate Representatives Kathy Manning, Chris Smith, and Senators Jacky Rosen and James Lankford, for leading congressional efforts to ensure swift resolution of pending discrimination complaints and that our academic institutions have the necessary resources to identify and respond to antisemitic incidents,” Rayman said in a statement.

“ADL data continues to demonstrate that hate and antisemitism on college campuses are on the rise. The U.S. Department of Education plays an essential role in ensuring that students feel safe to express their Jewish values and identity throughout campus life,” ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said in a statement. “We applaud the Chairs of the House and Senate Bipartisan Task Forces for Combating Antisemitism for their leadership and look forward to continuing our partnership to support the implementation of the National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism.”

Eric Fingerhut, President & CEO of JFNA, said in a statement that “the increased antisemitism on college campuses is deeply concerning and creates a harmful environment.”

“We urge the Department of Education to take the critical steps as outlined in this letter in order to mitigate antisemitism on more campuses and ensure that universities are addressing complaints of incidents in a timely manner,” Fingerhut continued. “We commend the lawmakers who have led this important effort that will create a safer environment for Jewish students.”

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