DETROIT (JTA) — The Jewish Council for Public Affairs endorsed using federal law to counter anti-Semitism on American college campuses.
During the organization’s annual plenum in Detroit, the JCPA and its 14 national member agencies and 125 community relations councils adopted a resolution that calls on campus leaders to do more to make students safe from anti-Semitism.
“In such circumstances, it is important for the Jewish community to serve as a resource and to offer campus groups assistance, as needed, to help them develop and implement strategies to protect Jewish students on campus and allow them to openly express their support for Israel,” the resolution stated.
Particularly, the resolution highlights provisions under Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination based on race, color or national origin in federally funded programs.
It noted that "although religion is not an enumerated category, an October 2010 letter from the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights clarified that Title VI offers students protection from a hostile environment ‘on the basis of actual or perceived shared ancestry or ethnic characteristics.’ "
It urges Congress to pass laws thgat would more explicitly protect Jewish students under Title VI." It encourages communities to "identify appropriate cases" for using Title VI, while also understanding the "breadth and limits" ot the power of the Department of Education to intervene.
The resolution also "recognizes the importance of the First Amendment" and says the JCPA believes Title VI should not be invoked "when it could lead to an environment in which legitimate debate about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is squelched and academic freedom is undermined."
It suggests "consulting with a broad range of Jewish student community leaders and campus Jewish professionals before publicly threatening a Title VI suit so as to ascertain their views on the impact that such a threat or filing would have on their community, whether the basic claim of the suit is consistent with their experience on campus, and whether there are other potentially effective remedies that could or should be employed prior to bringing legal action."
Resolutions adopted by the JCPA, the umbrella body for Jewish public affairs groups, are arrived at through consensus.
The Zionist Organization backed a separate resolution that would have endorsed using Title VI without such qualifications.
It criticized the resolution that passed as "sending the wrong message to Jewish students, to the federal government, and to the perpetrators of anti-Semitic bigotry."
Past Title VI compaints, the ZOA said "have never raised concerns about campus programs promoting legitimate political discourse or disagreements regarding Israel and the Middle East conflict."
Also adopted at the JCPA plenum were resolutions that support collective bargaining for public employees, oppose gender segregation in secular public spaces and promote equal education opportunity.
In addition, the JCPA elected Atlanta Jewish community activist Larry Gold as its new chair to succeed Dr. Conrad Giles.
“Over the years, I have been proud of my involvement with the JCPA, which through its model of community relations created interfaith and civic partnerships on such important goals as protecting the vulnerable and defending Israel," Gold said in a statement. "I look forward to deepening my involvement as we pursue our essential work."