Adopt the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act

By AJC, Special for  USDR

AJC is urging members of the U.S. House of Representatives to adopt the bipartisan Anti-Semitism Awareness Act of 2016. The Senate has already passed the measure, and once the House does so it can be delivered to President Obama for his signature before Congress  recesses.

“The Anti-Semitism Awareness Act of 2016 provides vital clarity and uniformity for recognizing and responding to manifestations of anti-Semitism on campuses,” said Richard Foltin, AJC Director of National and Legislative  Affairs.

The legislation would strengthen Department of Education (DOE) guidance on combating incidents of anti-Semitic harassment and intimidation on college and university campuses across the country. In 2010, the DOE recognized that Jewish students who are harassed at school enjoy, under certain circumstances, the protections of Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. At the time, Foltin spearheaded the outreach of 13 Jewish organizations to the DOE that led to the issuance of that  decision.

Under the new Awareness Act, the DOE would be required to refer to the State Department’s definition of anti-Semitism in determining whether there has been a violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act based on the victim’s actual or perceived Jewish ancestry or Jewish ethnic  characteristics.

The definition is a valuable tool “to help identify contemporary manifestations of anti-Semitism, and includes useful examples of discriminatory anti-Israel conduct that crosses the line into anti-Semitism,” states the Awareness  Act.

The Act also explicitly states that it is not intended to diminish or infringe upon First Amendment rights. “Nothing in the bill should be construed to alter the standards for determining when harassing conduct amounts to actionable discrimination, leaving our educational institutions free to operate as forums for vibrant and open discourse,” Foltin  said.

The State Department definition of anti-Semitism is based upon the Working Definition of Anti-Semitism initially adopted in 2005 by the European Monitoring Centre  (EUMC).

AJC, led by Rabbi Andrew Baker, AJC Director of International Jewish Affairs, was instrumental in developing the definition, and continues to lead the effort to promote its use in understanding and responding to anti-Semitism. It was adopted earlier this year by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), and will be considered by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) at the group’s meeting in Germany on  Friday.

SOURCE American Jewish  Committee

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