To the Editor:
In the April 16 Op-Ed on JTA “Jewish groups should embrace new legal protection for Jewish students,” authors Morton Klein and Susan Tuchman of the Zionist Organization of America misconstrue the Jewish Council for Public Affairs’ position on the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights determination that religious identity should be covered under Title VI of the landmark 1964 Civil Rights Act.
The Op-Ed states that JCPA’s draft resolution on campus issues should have praised the OCR policy and committed to educate about it. In fact, JCPA’s resolution does exactly that, repeatedly.
The resolution, which will be debated by representatives from 125 Jewish Community Relations Councils and 14 national member agencies at the JCPA Plenum next month, terms the Title VI right “an important remedy” and calls for the Jewish community to “educate itself regarding the recourse now available to Jewish students.”
JCPA was among those groups seeking the policy and has consistently praised it. The resolution recognizes that “Lawsuits and threats of legal action may be warranted to redress a systematic climate of fear and intimidation which a university administration has failed to address promptly with reasonable corrective measures.”
The resolution further recognizes the need to guard against inappropriate use of Title VI, where it might serve to muzzle legitimate free speech activity on college campuses. The Jewish community has consistently championed the protection of First Amendment rights. The resolution warns of the risk of a backlash if Jewish students seek to invoke Title VI in circumstances where it is not intended to apply.
The resolution, which comes from two JCPA task forces that we each co-chair, reflects what we believe is the consensus view of the organized Jewish community. It considers action under Title VI an important and praiseworthy tool but also recognizes that it does not replace the other tools that have served the Jewish community for years. There is a time for dialogue, a time for education, a time for advocacy — and sometimes a time for litigation, and the resolution recognizes that. But it also recognizes that Jewish community interests are better served by flexibility and careful sequencing in our responses.
Co-chair, JCPA Task Force on Jewish Security and The Bill of Rights
Co-chair, JCPA Task Force on Israel, World Jewry, and International Human Rights