Brandeis center ramps up lawsuit as students face campus antisemitism


Antisemitism has been on the rise across US college campuses since Hamas’ October 7 attack on Israel and the ensuing Israel-Hamas war.

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In recent months, reports of antisemitic incidents at American universities have inundated news channels. Masked marchers advocate for a “free Palestine” that stretches “from the river to the sea” at the expense of Israel’s existence, and claim a right to “resist” Israel “by any means necessary,” including a “globalized intifada.” Jewish students often report being harassed, intimidated, and sometimes outright terrorized by antisemitic mobs who act with impunity.

“Antisemitism is spreading like wildfire across the campuses in the United States, and it is doing so because the ground was primed,” Alyza Lewin, president and general counsel of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, told The Media Line. “The campus communities were really groomed, and they were groomed to see Zionist Jews as evil. They have been fed for years now a constant diet of anti-Jewish hate.”

Fighting against hate

The Brandeis Center is a Washington, DC-based nonprofit, nonpolitical legal group with the goal of advancing human rights and civil rights for Jews. The group has filed numerous legal complaints against US universities for antisemitism, including University of California, Berkeley; University of Southern California; Brooklyn College; University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign; State University of New York at New Paltz; and the City University of New York system.

A recent study conducted by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), Hillel International, and College Plus, an analytics company, found that 73% of the Jewish students they surveyed had experienced or witnessed antisemitism since the beginning of the school year.

The ADL recorded 400 incidents of antisemitism on college campuses between October 7 and December 7. During the same period in 2022, 33 antisemitic incidents were reported.

Pro-Palestinian protesters attend ”Flood Brooklyn for Gaza” demonstration, as the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas continues, in New York, US, October 28, 2023. (credit: CAITLIN OCHS/REUTERS)

The elite universities are awash in antisemitism. And it’s not just coming from the students. Recently, Dr. Zareena Grewal, an associate professor of American studies at Yale, posted on social media statements the advocacy group StandWithUS said “promote violence and display an alarming hatred for Jews, Israelis and Zionists” without recourse from Yale.


US politicians have taken notice of rising antisemitism on campus, and representatives are working to address the problem.

“The federal government should leverage the power it has over federal funding to pressure colleges and universities to combat antisemitism,” Congressman Ritchie Torres (D-NY) told The Media Line. “There should be enhanced enforcement under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination based on race, religion, and national origin.”

Torres, who represents the Bronx and spoke at the Washington, DC March for Israel, has been said to represent the future of pro-Israel politicians. His vocal support for Israel has led multiple New York-based pro-Palestinian groups to rally outside his offices over the past two months.

It’s time to take accountability

“Accountability should come not only from government but also from civil society, which should create a scorecard, rating colleges and universities on campus antisemitism,” Torres said. “A scorecard would create a reputational incentive for colleges and universities to treat the crisis of campus antisemitism with the urgency it deserves.”

Lewin called Torres’ scorecard suggestion “a very creative idea.” “We need to figure out ways to hold the schools accountable and to motivate them to take the steps they can take to really make a difference,” she said.

Three weeks ago, the US House of Representatives summoned the presidents of three elite universities to speak about antisemitism on college campuses.

University of Pennsylvania President Liz Magill, Harvard University President Claudine Gay, and Massachusetts Institute of Technology President Sally Kornbluth sat before the US House Committee on Education and the Workforce to discuss their efforts to address antisemitism at their universities.

Their testimony proved disastrous, with one of the university presidents losing her job in the wake of the hearing.

Magill resigned from her position as president of Penn a week after the hearing. After she refused to specify whether calling for a genocide of Jews violated the university’s harassment policy, financier Ross Stevens threatened to withdraw a donation to the school of $100 million. Magill stepped down as president but will remain a tenured member of the law school.

Lewin called the presidents’ testimony “clearly disturbing” and said that the testimony served to raise awareness about antisemitism on college campuses.

Many have demanded that Gay and Kornbluth resign as well, but both have received formal backing from their respective boards.

“I and the Executive Committee of the MIT Corporation entirely support President Kornbluth,” Mark P. Gorenberg, chair of the MIT Corporation, wrote in a statement.

A separate letter of support for Kornbluth, signed by MIT deans, department heads, and senior faculty leaders, addressed the issue of free speech on campus, distinguishing between “what we can say and what we should say.”

Harvard’s board also released a statement of support for President Gay following her testimony.

“Our extensive deliberations affirm our confidence that President Gay is the right leader to help our community heal and to address the very serious societal issues we are facing,” the Harvard Corporation said in a statement.

Rep. Torres said that Gay should resign.

“When it came to the question of whether [calling for] a genocide of Jews constitutes harassment, I found Claudine Gay’s answer to be so offensive and outrageous as to merit resignation, and I have said so publicly,” Torres said.

Gay’s comments came on the heels of several antisemitic incidents that have taken place at Harvard in the recent past. The Brandeis Center sent a legal warning to Harvard representing the complaints of three Israeli students who claimed that a Harvard professor discriminated against them.

Days after the October 7 attacks, over 30 Harvard student groups signed a letter that claimed Israel was “entirely responsible for all unfolding violence.” Some leaders of the student groups had job offers rescinded as a result of signing the letter.

Help is available for students experiencing discrimination. The Brandeis Center has partnered with the ADL, Hillel International, and the Gibson Dunn law firm to launch the Campus Antisemitism Legal Line (CALL). According to Lewin, CALL will provide American Jews on US college campuses “the legal guidance and support they need” to combat university antisemitism. Additionally, CALL aims to assist law firms and lawyers involved in administrative complaints and lawsuits.

Lewin explains that this will “better coordinate with one another to ensure these efforts work in concert, rather than potentially undermining each other.” CALL, accessible at, aims to “ensure all students who need it receive the best legal support possible,” Lewin told The Media Line.

Universities failing to protect Jewish students on campus can expect legal challenges from Lewin and the Brandeis Center. When university administrators fail to act, even when made aware of clear discrimination, we are left with no choice,” Lewin stated.


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