update deskSchools & Higher Education

White House plan to counter ‘alarming’ rise of Jew-hatred on campuses

Details of the plan weren't publicly available.

U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona (right) and Douglas Emhoff, who is married to U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, participated in an event in Los Angeles on Jan. 9, 2023. Credit: Cameron Smith/Official White House Photo.
U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona (right) and Douglas Emhoff, who is married to U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, participated in an event in Los Angeles on Jan. 9, 2023. Credit: Cameron Smith/Official White House Photo.

The Biden administration is taking steps “to counter the alarming uptick in instances of antisemitism at schools and college campuses,” per a press release from the office of Douglas Emhoff, who is married to Vice President Kamala Harris.

CNN reported on the plan, citing an unnamed administration official, and NBC reported that it received an exclusive copy. Details of the plan don’t appear to be public.

“The Departments of Justice and Homeland Security have taken steps to ensure campus law enforcement is included in engagements with state and local law enforcement,” per Emhoff’s office. (The U.S. Department of Education distributed the release on behalf of the White House.)

The Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights “has expedited its update of the intake process for discrimination complaints under Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, to specifically state that certain forms of antisemitic and related forms of discrimination are prohibited by this law,” per the release.

Emhoff posted that the Biden administration “announced actions to track hate-related rhetoric online and provide further federal resources to schools” on Monday.

“The rise in antisemitic threats of violence against Jewish students in schools and on college campuses is unwarranted and unacceptable,” he added.

He noted that he was scheduled to meet on Monday with U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona and with the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations “to talk about concrete actions we are taking to ensure all students feel safe on campus.”

Julie Rayman, managing director of policy and political affairs at the American Jewish Committee, told JNS that Cardona opened the meeting by centering “the fear and trauma being experienced by Jewish students and educators on campus and in K-12 schools.”

“He made clear his commitment that hate and antisemitism should have no place in education in America,” Rayman said. “He acknowledged that Jewish families are afraid to send their kids to schools right now, noting that ‘As a father, I’m committed to this.”

Rayman said that she and colleagues asked the Education Department to take “additional steps to prepare universities to take prompt action against any and all acts of antisemitism and to send guidance to superintendents and others so they know what to do about walkouts and how to keep students safe in K-12 schools.”

“We have asked the department to urge universities to fully embrace the IHRA definition of antisemitism, making it clear that anti-Zionism in most of its forms is antisemitism,” she added.

“We were glad to hear from Secretary Cardona that he is tasking his team to create new guidance, noting that ‘If this is like nothing we’ve ever seen, then our actions must be like nothing we have ever done.,'” she said. “I fully trust in his commitment to ensure that antisemitism will not and cannot be normalized.” The Department of Education made clear that it shares our sense of urgency and will stand up for students and families.”

Nathan Diament, executive director for public policy at the Orthodox Union, wrote that appreciated “the serious and concrete discussion” with Cardona, Emhoff “and other leaders about the current wave of antisemitism at American schools and actions that must be taken to fight it.”

Barbara Weinstein, director of the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism, was also present, the Union for Reform Judaism wrote.

Deborah Lipstadt, U.S. special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism, also attended, as did leaders of the Conservative, Orthodox and Reform movements, Conference of Presidents CEO William Daroff, Jewish Federations of North America CEO Eric Fingerhut, Anti-Defamation League CEO and national director Jonathan Greenblatt, among others, per the release from Emhoff’s office.

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