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Conference of Presidents Passover Statement

New York, NY… Harriet P. Schleifer, Chair, and William C. Daroff, CEO, of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, issued the following statement:

During this week of Passover observance, we have been horrified to see the events unfolding on college campuses across America.  At our seders we recount that in each generation threats emerge to the very existence of the Jewish people.  At this very time, student activists are calling for the destruction of the state of Israel; declaring their support for Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Iranian regime; and launching physical assaults on Jewish students and faculty.

Let us be clear: order on our campuses must be restored immediately.  Colleges and universities have a duty to maintain the safety and security of all students, staff, and faculty. Students and faculty who break the law or violate campus codes of conduct must face the legal and institutional consequences for their actions.  To the few university administrators who have shown the courage to restore order and sanction the malefactors, we express our gratitude. To the majority who have not taken adequate measures, we demand that you do so immediately and warn you that the safety of American Jewry and the values of pluralism and of tolerance, upon which this country was founded and built – and which colleges and universities are meant to uphold – face a mortal threat. 

Colleges and Universities are supposed to be safe spaces, where diversity of opinions are welcome. The First Amendment is a sacrosant principle in this country’s political culture. However, too many of the protests we have seen are not peaceful and they are targeted at a specific group. These demonstrations are largely conducted by anti-Israel agitators and organizations who openly praised the terror attack of October 7 and repeatedly express their sympathies for the Hamas terrorist army.  Their vicious chants, and burning of countless American flags, are unfortunately consistent with the ideologies of the radical terrorist organizations they support, as well as that of their patron, the Iranian regime, which openly advocates for the destruction of the United States writ large.  That is a threat to all Americans.

Many of the chants featured at such rallies call for violence against Jews and the State of Israel.  At Columbia University, one of the chief organizers of the encampment declared that “Zionists do not deserve to live.” Jewish students around the United States have been assaulted and harassed on their campuses in incidents that have no precedent in American history.

The response from too many of our campuses, including many of the most elite, is woefully inadequate; Jewish safety is clearly not among their top priorities. That must change immediately. 

Our institutions of higher education must fulfill their mandates to actually educate.  Too many of the students and faculty engaging in this disruptive behavior are relying on and spreading disinformation.  We cannot abide by that.  If our campuses cannot protect their constituents utilizing the tools of education- their very missions, then they must utilize the tools of campus codes, campus police, or public law enforcement.  They certainly must apply the sanctions for misbehavior already outlined in their own student and faculty conduct codes.

Many colleges and universities permit outside agitators to come in and exacerbate the problem on campus. These agitators must be declared persona non grata on university properties effective immediately.  Additionally, our institutions must articulate and implement long-term action plans to combat antisemitism, as these issues will not disappear when the encampments come down and the current semester ends.

Oversight from the federal government is now more necessary than ever. The federal Departments of Justice and Education must provide clear guidance to administrators and police, defining the limits of free speech on campus and the parameters of effective, legitimate enforcement of their own campus rules and policies.

US House Speaker Mike Johnson’s visit this week to Columbia University shined a light on the horrific situation there. We encourage him and his counterpart in the Senate, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, to bring the Antisemitism Awareness Act to a vote, and to withhold federal funding from any university that violates Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. Colleges and universities that do not provide safe environments for Jewish students should have federal funding slashed.

The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, and our constituent organizations, stand squarely behind the Jewish students around the country whose lives have been disrupted by this vicious eruption of antisemitism. Our children are not alone in facing this scourge; our entire community is mobilized to address this existential threat.  A double standard is being applied to Jews on campus, if threats and/or disruptions were leveled at any other minority group, our institutions of higher education would put a stop to them immediately.

We demand that the leadership of every sector of our country – governmental, corporate, academic, entertainment, media, religious, and civic – joins us in declaring that antisemitism ends now.  America is better than this, and we know that these dark days will abate if we all stand together.

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