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November 30, 2014 2:44 pm

Jewish Students Have the Right to Feel Safe on Campus

avatar by Melanie Goldberg /

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Brooklyn College. Photo: Wikimedia Commons It all started when I took out some anti-BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) information sheets at a Brooklyn College-sponsored event last year that featured Omar Barghouti, the founder of the BDS movement. You’d expect that of any student opposed to the speaker’s anti-Israel views. I planned to challenge Barghouti by taking notes as he spoke and asking questions during the Q&A period. But I never got the chance to participate. A member of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), the event’s main organizer, had other plans. He had the view that this wasn’t the time or place to voice opposition, so I should either hand over my sheets or be kicked out. When I refused, he had City University of New York (CUNY) security officials escort me and two other yarmulke-clad students out of the event, no questions asked.

The following week, my name was synonymous with “First Amendment oppression.” My phone rang incessantly. Politicians wanted to speak to me and lawyers flooded my inbox with requests to advocate for my legal rights.

Yet I was a college senior. I should’ve been applying to graduate schools, finishing my honors thesis, and interviewing for jobs—not vetting law firms, bonding with politicians, and answering reporters. I was elbow deep in a controversy that was much bigger than myself, and while I began to realize that indeed a gross constitutional violation had been committed, I didn’t know enough to understand what I was entitled to and what consequences the courts could enforce against the violators.

Enter the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law. Like in my case, students are often unfamiliar with their rights. This ignorance can lead academic institutions to unlawfully restrict students. Ironically, academia should be the place where students feel safest to speak their minds. The Brandeis Center assisted me and the two other students, and Brooklyn College eventually apologized. The apology wasn’t personally important to me. But it was crucial to know that other students wouldn’t have to experience what I did.

Fast forward to today and, in less than two years, the situation has become more grim for Jewish students. There has recently been a dramatic spike in anti-Semitic incidents on campuses nationwide. In fact, more than 40 percent of Jewish American college students report that they have experienced or are aware of anti-Semitism on their campuses. Just this month, swastikas were drawn on two fliers posted at Northeastern University to publicize a lecture by an Israeli military official. Last month, a Jewish student at Claremont University had his Israeli flag and mezuzah ripped off his dorm room. A month before that, a Jewish student at Temple University was punched in the face, knocked down, and called “baby-killer, racist, Zionist pig” by a fellow student. Last spring, SJP at Vassar College republished a vile anti-Semitic Nazi cartoon. Around that same time at the University of Michigan, anti-Israel student activists hurled death threats at a Jewish student and called him “dirty Jew” and “kike.” And these examples cover only roughly the past six months.

Back to New York, where Brooklyn College students still worry about SJP’s discriminatory practices on campus. A resolution against SJP’s unlawful behavior was never instituted. Concerns are voiced at CUNY John Jay and the CUNY Graduate Center, ranging from students’ fear to wear their yarmulkes on campus due to the recent anti-Zionism morphing into anti-Semitic chants, to the legality of a pro-BDS resolution vote being held on a Friday night to prevent Jews from vocalizing their side. At Fordham University, students are worried because a professor who vocalized opposition to the American Studies Association’s pro-BDS stance was investigated. Unfortunately, the list goes on an on.

This is why I recently founded a Brandeis Center chapter at Cardozo School of Law, where I am currently a student. We are proud to be part of a nationwide network of student-led Brandeis Center chapters in Boston, Charlottesville, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, Saint Paul, and Washington, DC, that will participate in a wide range of activities to combat anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism on campus and to help victims. Some of the work includes providing pro-bono legal research and advocacy, working with university leaders on policies to protect Jewish students, and hosting speakers and events on a variety of civil rights and anti-Semitism issues.

Personally, I would like to focus on protecting freedom of speech. Both sides of the Arab-Israeli conflict have a right to be heard, but it’s about securing equal time and exposure for both sides of this complicated story. It’s about fact-based logic rather than sensational hatred-based rhetoric. Right now, especially in New York-based public institutions, the pro-Israel side is being drowned by its opponents. We must show that anti-Zionism is in fact anti-Semitism when one side’s position is stifled.

Jewish students have the right to feel safe on campus. They have the right to walk the halls wearing a yarmulke. They have the right to hang a mezuzah. They have the right to host pro-Israel events, and to speak freely about their support for Israel in the classroom and on the square. When he headed the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, Brandeis Center President Ken Marcus took the first step by including protection against anti-Semitism under Title VI of the U.S. Civil Rights Act. But more must be done to ensure that universities comply with the law.

I know firsthand how distressing it is to be a victim of anti-Zionism that morphs into anti-Semitism. I will carry that passion of personal experience with me when helping other students. The Brandeis Center chapters give law students like me a chance to do our part.

Melanie Goldberg is a student at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, a research assistant for Versa: the Israeli Supreme Court English Language Repository, and one of the founders of a new student-led legal chapter of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights at Cardozo.

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  • George Weiss

    Melanie, this is a societal divide that will ultimately reveal whether the local, state, federal and global communities are on a road to civilization, or hatred, discrimination and barbarism. I fear the latter to be the case, and more of our blossoming young adults, Jewish and non-Jewish, must take this issue on quickly and effectively. They need to be educated not to believe parroted propaganda blindly. This problem is particularly serious in academia where so called intelligencia are exhibiting virulent hatred and discrimination. So much for the education of our youth!Keep up the good work, and never give up!!

  • Dean

    Those who tell you that anti-Zionism does not equal anti-Semitism, just remind them that if they expressed the same vitriol against patriotic Americans for loving America as they did for Jews who love Israel that they would be considered both anti-American and anti-America.

    What these people really want is to promote their expanding barbaric Caliphate, sharia and jihad with the help of their dhimmi leftist useful idiots as mouthpieces and these spokesmen/spokeswomen include many in academe; some who are self-loathing Jews who also want to bring harm to Israel.

    The battle is on for the narrative of freedom, life and truth vs. slavery, death and lies. Most Americans get it but the Islamists/leftists have not been properly challenged and they think that they are the only ones at this time who are allowed to use dirty tactics and propaganda plus all the institutions available to them in a free country to turn our country into a nightmare version of an Islamist State.

  • Paul Cerar

    Make sure you and all supporters of democracy VOTE in every election, on and off campus. Also, get off you butts and aggressively lay hate-crime, civil rights abuse, assault charges, and sue for slander, every fascist who harasses you!

    Paul Cerar
    Toronto, Canada

    • Eli

      Given the current administration and especially the current attorney general, I wonder if hate crime and civil rights abuse cases, if they ever get started, will go anywhere?

      • Paul Cerar

        You have to be in for the long haul. These are long-term commitments which may take years to bear fruit, so keep at it. Vote in EVERY election, in all levels of government, and in all non-governmental elections. Speak with every candidate, and let them know you and where you stand. Encourage as many persons as possible to do the same. Become a leader.

        Plan B: The Secret Freedom Fighter movement. Everyone will act secretly and individually to boycott the enemy and anyone who sympathizes, collaborates or does business with the enemy. Establish a headquarters, appoint a group of persons who keep a low profile and gather information, as detailed and accurate as possible. Give the info to SFF members. One man boycotting one fascist may do a little good, but ten thousand persons acting in unison can put the fascist out of business.

  • Malka Halle

    Kudos to Melanie Goldberg . We have come to a point where we will not run away anymore from our ancient faith in order to escape antisemitism. We believe that America is a country of kindness and that the good must prevail for Jews, no less than other minorities.

    Take a good look at the origins and history of the Jewish People. Can we chart a map, not only back to where we came from, but also into a future where antisemitism is a relic of the past? It is possible that the Zionism that is taught today is lacking soul, and that a re-framing of Zionism according to its authentic roots in Torah would inspire more respect amongst ourselves and others.

  • judithg

    in 2016 when the WH and its anti-semitic crew are vanished into the cornfield, this will stop. prayerfully, no more Democratic party, thank you very much. the side of the aisle who are on the side of protecting the rights and safety of Jewish students, are those whom we should side with.
    a new president, not so enamored with nor obligated to worldwide muslimy, will enable America to emerge from this dark and creepy Bizarro World. hopefully, still intact.

  • Emmett

    Perhaps when Jewish students in the Land of Israel are allowed the right to feel safe on their campus’, streets & homes, it will set an example for rest of the world. Until then, not much will change until Israel gets rid of the corrupt leftist, Jew hating trash claiming to be a government. Those idol worshippers are more concerned with trying to appease Israel’s enemies with Jewish blood than doing the job they were hired for.

  • Leo Toystory

    Tell us where to make donations.

  • Bernard Rubin

    I am gratified by Melanie’s awareness and would like to contribute
    to the Brandeis Center and send letters to various universities
    complaining of anti-semitism on the campuses.

  • This type of injustice bothers me so much, that barbarians ( Palestinians,Muslims ) are allowed in this country,then they use our freedoms to attack lsraeli students! Israeli students fight back! If I were younger and were able,you know what! I may not be that young,but,if they got in my face, they would make contact with my fist! These barbarians only get away with their aggression only cause their behind hasn’t been kicked, I’m a Christian, but I won’t be silenced! I stand with Israel and by the Jewish people!!!! God bless lsrael!