Meet Civil Rights Director in Michigan – TOPIC: Campus Anti-Semitism

Civil Rights Director Makes Special Trip to Michigan to Discuss Campus Anti-Semitism

To cap off what has been a banner inaugural year, StandWithUs/Michigan, which has proudly supported local students on the ground and out front in challenging anti-Israel bias and hostility in the classroom and on campus, is honored to bring the director of the US Commission on Civil Rights to educate our community about the troubling rise in campus anti-Semitism.

Kenneth Marcus, our country’s chief civil rights official, will be the keynote speaker at a community-wide symposium this coming Monday, March 26 at 7 PM at Temple Israel. The event is open to the public free of charge and is sponsored by StandWithUs/Michigan in partnership with Temple Israel.

Co-sponsors include B’nai Brith Great Lakes Region, Frankel Jewish Academy and NFTY (North American Federation of Temple Youth). We would also like to acknowledge other area synagogues, religious schools and youth organizations participating in and promoting this important event: Adat Shalom, Akiva, Bais Chabad of Farmington Hills, Beth Ahm, Beth Shalom, Hillel Day School, Temple Kol Ami, NCSY (National Conference of Synagogue Youth), Shir Tikvah, Temple Emanu-El and BBYO.

The importance of this event was underscored by Jewish News Editor Robert Sklar whose leading Editor’s Notebook column this week focuses on campus anti-Semitism. “It’s alarming that the top civil rights agency was compelled to hold special hearings in 2005 and issue the 2006 report, “Campus Anti-Semitism,” Sklar noted.

The report concluded that campus anti-Semitism is “a serious problem which warrants further attention….When severe, persistent or pervasive, this behavior may constitute a hostile environment for students in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act.”

The briefing by Marcus will cover the dimensions of the problem; responsibilities of university administrators, departments and faculties; civil rights protections and legal remedies available to address campus anti-Semitism. He has exhorted about the dangers of dismissing or minimizing anti-Semitism on campus, warning that “the denial of the problem is itself a problem.”

Also featured in this special program will be Aryeh Weinberg, co-author of “The Uncivil University” and a research associate at the Institute of Jewish Community Research, which provided much of the key testimony at the hearings. IJCR, based in San Francisco, is a think tank providing research and policy analyses to Jewish communities around the world, including Detroit, on higher education, philanthropy, demography/population studies, security and religious identity. Weinberg earned his B.A. in international relations from the University of California Berkeley.

Weinberg’s book explores how institutions of higher learning have become “a prime vehicle for politically motivated prejudice” and how best to combat this insidious threat.

The commission heard testimony that age-old anti-Semitic libels have been reincarnated under the guise of anti-Zionism. The report noted: “Anti-Semitic bigotry is no less morally deplorable when camouflaged as anti-Israelism or anti-Zionism…”there is substantial evidence (suggesting) that many university departments of Middle East studies provide one-sided, highly polemical academic presentations…”

In response to these concerns, the Commission issued policy guidelines and recommendations for universities to assure an environment of tolerance in which students and faculty can express religious and political beliefs without fear of discrimination or retribution.

Linda Stulberg, StandWithUs/Michigan volunteer director, hopes the entire Jewish community will turn out for this critically important event. “We have a responsibility to become educated and engaged to protect our students and to challenge academia when necessary so that anti-Semitism is no less acceptable than any other manifestation of racism or hatred.”

During the past year, StandWithUs took the lead working closely with pro-Israel student groups at U-M and Wayne State to successfully repel renewed divestment initiatives. SWU/Michigan also sponsored appearances by such noted speakers as Nonie Darwish, Brigitte Gabriel and Itamar Marcus to ensure that pro-Israel perspectives are heard on campus. In collaboration with our U-M affiliate, the Israel IDEA, SWU helped stage a hugely successful Israel Diag Day and hosted a luncheon with Israeli victims of terror. StandWithUs sent local students to Israel and to the annual student conference in California.

Inspired by the courage and conviction of Jewish student leaders at Wayne, StandWithUs prepared extensive documentation and rallied a community mobilization to impress upon the Wayne State Law School that candidate Wadie Said was ill-suited for appointment to the faculty. StandWithUs had every confidence that when presented with fuller disclosure of Mr. Said’s credentials and flawed scholarship, that it would render the proper decision as it did.

In the aftermath of this summer’s Hezbollah war against Israel, Jewish students were confronted with escalating anti-Israel hostilities on campus.

“Jewish and pro-Israel students at Wayne have been forced to endure an organized campaign by anti-Israel students, alumni and certain members of the metro-Detroit community,” law student Jonathan Schwartz remarked before an audience at the Holocaust Memorial Center this winter. “The atmosphere on campus is very disturbing and troubling to me personally. I am offended that my Jewish identity is being attacked on campus, so close to where I grew up”

On behalf of local pro-Israel students, StandWithUs shared with the community the students’ concerns and documented the most troubling anti-Israel, anti-Semitic defamations and activities. Further, SWU distributed educational materials, flyers, and brochures; placed advertising, and hosted speakers and informational sessions to enable students to blunt anti-Israel bashing on campus and in the student papers and to more effectively make Israel’s case to the student community.

StandWithUs/Michigan lauds the students for their impressive accomplishments this academic year. Students were not silent and spoke out against the lies and distortions to delegitimize Israel. Nonetheless, the campaign to demonize Israel continues to gather steam. Students report that editorial content in the campus papers this year has been virulently anti-Israel and question whether criteria for fact checking, coverage, and access have been evenly and fairly applied across the board.

Just a few weeks ago, a small group of Students for Israel at Wayne was distributing informational materials when they were approached by a man whose face was concealed by the signature black and white keffiyah worn by terrorists. One of the Jewish students was so shaken that he reported the incident to the university and expressed that he felt intimidated and threatened. The student has said that his unease would not be unlike that of a black student approached by someone cloaked in a KKK hood.

Civil Rights Director Marcus will be meeting with administration officials at the University of Michigan and at Wayne State. StandWithUs/Michigan greatly appreciates the interest shown by officials at both universities in learning from Marcus firsthand about the dynamics of campus anti-Semitism and the remedies to address it.

Marcus and Weinberg are scheduled to speak at Wayne Tuesday, March 27 at noon in the Student Center Building ballroom. The program is being presented by StandWithUs in cooperation with Students for Israel and the Jewish Law Students Association. At 6:30 that evening, Marcus and Weinberg will address students at U-M in Ann Arbor. The U-M event is being presented by StandWithUs in partnership with the Israel IDEA and will be open to the Ann Arbor Jewish community. SWU has invited university officials to participate at the community and campus forums. Area college students will also present their firsthand perspectives.

For more information or to participate in this important community event, call StandWithUs/Michigan at 248-432-1384.