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Jewish groups balk at Ed Department meeting with anti-Israel-aligned activists

At least six mainstream U.S. Jewish organizations dropped out of a meeting with the U.S. education secretary over participation of left-wing Israel critics.

Miguel Cardona, the U.S. education secretary, speaks at the 2024 Annual Meeting and Advocacy Day of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities on Feb. 5, 2024. Credit: U.S. Department of Education.
Miguel Cardona, the U.S. education secretary, speaks at the 2024 Annual Meeting and Advocacy Day of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities on Feb. 5, 2024. Credit: U.S. Department of Education.

At least six mainstream U.S. Jewish organizations did not attend a meeting with U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona on Friday to discuss Jew-hatred on campus. The groups reportedly cited the participation of left-wing activist groups that are closely aligned with anti-Israel campus protests.

The Jewish Federations of North America, Hillel International, the Anti-Defamation League, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, the Orthodox Union and the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law were among those that either did not attend or dropped off a Zoom call with Cardona minutes before it was scheduled to begin, Jewish Insider reported.

Twenty minutes before the call began, the Department of Education informed the groups that other participants would include those that oppose the use of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance working definition of antisemitism, including Nexus, Bend the Arc and T’ruah.

The call was a follow-up to an Education Department meeting with Jewish groups in October.

Adoption of the IHRA definition of antisemitism, and the rejection of alternative definitions that are permissive of the demonization of Israel, is a key point of advocacy for many mainstream Jewish groups.

Bend the Arc published a series of social media posts on Friday calling many of the measures of the Jewish groups that skipped Friday’s call “authoritarian.”

“Today, under the unfortunate and false banner of ‘Jewish safety,’ we are seeing firsthand what an authoritarian attack on democratic rights and principles looks like,” the group wrote.

Another group on the Friday morning call, the Diaspora Alliance, has three staff members who are co-founders of IfNotNow, one of the nation’s leading anti-Israel activist groups.

One of those staffers, Simone Zimmerman, was a participant in the Columbia “Gaza solidarity encampment” that inspired much of the recent wave of anti-Israel demonstrations on campus.

“Spent the first night of Passover at the student Seder in the Gaza solidarity encampment at Columbia,” Zimmerman wrote. “The Jewish flank of the Palestine solidarity movement is growing and it is so beautiful to behold. Judge for yourself how unsafe these Jewish students look.”

The Diaspora Alliance’s website describes itself as “a project of Tides Advocacy,” a political nonprofit umbrella group that distributes funds to a slew of left-wing advocacy groups, including hundreds of thousands of dollars to IfNotNow and Jewish Voice for Peace, another anti-Israel group.

On the call, Cardona updated participants on the department’s work to investigate potential violations of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act against Jews on campus, per Jewish Insider. The publication also reported that the Jewish groups that dropped out scheduled another meeting on Friday with Cardona.

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