Executive Order on Title VI
December 11, 2019
Posted by: JCRC Staff
Today at the White House Chanukah Party, President Trump signed an Executive Order addressing anti-Semitism on college campuses. It codifies the adoption of the International Holocaust Remembrance Association (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism, which has been used by the U.S. State Department since 2018. The Executive Order requires that the Department of Education, when reviewing whether there has been a violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, consider an individual's actual or perceived shared Jewish ancestry or Jewish ethnic characteristics as part of its assessment of whether the alleged practice was motivated by anti-Semitism.
Anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism are serious problems that have a deleterious effect on our college campuses. Many Jewish students have felt unwelcomed, and in some cases, unsafe. The violent murders of Jews this past year in Pittsburgh, Poway, and now New Jersey has increased the Jewish community’s sense of vulnerability.
At the same time, the American Jewish community holds a wide range of views about how best to address this pernicious behavior on campuses. There is significant discussion on the meaning of the executive order and whether it will help address anti-Semitism. Some Jewish organizations have offered strong support, pointing out that this order offers protections that have been sought for years and is a way to rectify the fact that religion was excluded from Title VI. Others worry that it will have a chilling effect on free speech, particularly around the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, object to the perception that this order defines Jews as an ethnic group or nation and worry that it will actually increase anti-Semitism.
JCRC opposes the movement to delegitimize Israel in its various forms (BDS, anti-Zionism and anti-normalization) and has worked for decades with campus and community leaders to address the unwelcoming and sometimes hostile environment it has created for many Jews. JCRC also supports a two-state solution and works every day to further a shared future for Israelis and Palestinians that recognize both people’s right to self-determination.
Below are resources, including articles, opinion pieces and statements from national Jewish organizations on the executive order.
- Trump Targets Anti-Semitism and Israeli Boycotts on College Campuses, New York Times, Dec 10, 2019
- No, the Trump Administration Is Not Redefining Judaism as a Nationality, Slate, Dec 11, 2019
- Trump’s Executive Order Against College Campuses Is Bad for The Jews, Forward, Dec 11, 2019
- Jared Kushner: President Trump Is Defending Jewish Students, New York Times (Op-Ed), Dec 11, 2019
- Trump’s Executive Order and the Rise of Anti-Semitism, New York Times (Editorial), Dec 11, 2019
- Trump’s order designed to protect Jewish students needs thoughtful review, J Weekly (Editorial), Dec 11, 2019
- I drafted the definition of antisemitism. Rightwing Jews are weaponizing it, The Guardian (Op-Ed), Dec 13, 2019
Statements from Jewish Organizations
“This Executive Order is an important step in acknowledging the growing concern about rising anti-Semitism on American college campuses. Including Jews in Title VI protections is something that ADL and previous presidential administrations have supported for years. ADL has likewise long supported the IHRA definition, which has been adopted by more than 20 countries and entities around the world as a non-legally binding definition of anti-Semitism.”
"American Jewish Committee (AJC) welcomes President Trump's Executive Order to strengthen efforts to combat antisemitism on college and university campuses. We trust that a careful application of this directive will enable university administrators to avoid running afoul of free speech protections as they seek to root out antisemitism on their campuses," said AJC CEO David Harris.”
“This executive order, like the stalled congressional legislation it is based on, appears designed less to combat anti-Semitism than to have a chilling effect on free speech and to crack down on campus critics of Israel. J Street is committed to fighting all forms of anti-Semitism — and we feel it is misguided and harmful for the White House to unilaterally declare a broad range of nonviolent campus criticism of Israel to be anti-Semitic, especially at a time when the prime driver of anti-Semitism in this country is the xenophobic, white nationalist far-right.”
“The Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) welcomes the new executive order, which adopts the International Holocaust Remembrance Association (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism. The executive order is modeled on language in the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act, which has benefited from bipartisan support in the U.S. Congress and formalizes a definition of anti-Semitism that can be used in discrimination cases throughout federal agencies. It bolsters tools that help prevent discrimination on college campuses, which have been hard hit by a near 90% increase in anti-Semitic incidents over the past three years. It is deplorable that Jewish students continue to experience hate and hostility. These new tools are not inconsistent with first amendment protections, which we will continue to uphold and defend.”
"JIMENA welcomes President Trump's Executive Order, which expands the civil rights of Jewish people at a time of increasing anti-Semitism. Furthermore, JIMENA welcomes the adoption of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of anti-Semitism. These are the types of protections that oppressed Jews in the Middle East and North Africa only dreamed of and we don't take gestures to protect our rights for granted."
“T’ruah is deeply disturbed by the dangerous ramifications of the President’s planned Executive Order that suggests Judaism is a nationality protected under the “race, color, or national origin” clause of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and urges the President to refrain from taking this action.”
“While in today's hyper-partisan and alienating political environment, the messenger is often conflated with the message, today's Executive Order is the culmination of years of bipartisan work by Members of Congress, attorneys, civil rights professionals, and courageous students who have been victimized by antisemitic and anti-Zionist hate. We must remain vigilant in ensuring that any "classification" of Jews or any other persecuted group does not lead to more of the disgraceful "othering" we have seen from this administration since Day 1. But we must also recognize that the Jewish community, and Jewish students in our nation's university halls, dorms and quads, must be protected to the full extent of the law.”