Republican senators call for federally funded schools to protect Jewish students

The Department of Education “must take immediate action to protect Jewish students” on federally funded college campuses and in K-12 schools, three GOP senators said Wednesday.

In a letter to Secretary Miguel Cardona, Sens. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Marco Rubio of Florida and Ted Budd of North Carolina said Jewish students face “extreme anti-Semitic violence and harassment” and claimed “school instructors [either] look the other way or even praise Hamas’s terrorist attack” which struck southern Israel on Oct. 7.

The senators said such incidents occur at colleges and in K-12 schools. An October 18-19 survey of Jewish students by Hillel International found 40% saying “it is harder to share their views” in classes and on campus since the Israel-Hamas war broke out on Oct. 7. The Hillel organization supports campus ministries to Jewish students and has since established a hotline to report college incidents,

“In at least one high school, students reportedly marched through the halls while chanting a call for the destruction of Israel,” they wrote. 

The letter linked to an Oct. 18 report from San Francisco television station KRON-4, noting a Balboa High School demonstration where students marched in the halls chanting, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free!”

That declaration is widely considered to be a call to eliminate the Jewish population of Israel. 

On Tuesday, the House of Representatives voted 234-188 to censure Rep. Rashida Tlaib for using the phrase in a video posted on X.

The senators said Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination based on race, color, or national origin and extends that protection to students harassed for a “shared ancestry or ethnic characteristics.”

The senators wrote, “School administrators, at institutions of all levels, have a duty to protect their students from these kinds of threats. Schools that, by their inaction, enable threats and harassment against Jewish students are subject to losing their access to federal funds.”

The Education Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Eric Fingerhut, president and CEO of the Jewish Federations of North America, told The Washington Times said the group “fully” supported the three senators’ call for action.

“It’s difficult to know what’s more appalling, the extreme rise in antisemitism and pro-Hamas sentiment that’s poisoning our campuses or the failure of so many university leaders to properly push back against it and create a safe environment for their students. This is 2023, not 1943,” he said.

Mr. Fingerhut, a former president of Hillel International, said, “I recently met with Secretary Cardona himself and other Jewish organizations to encourage the Department of Education to enforce Title VI protections for students, who are facing harassment, discrimination, and even violence for being Jewish, or for expressing their support for the Jewish state. Jewish Federations are fully supportive of Congressional efforts to promote this accountability.”

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