Educational Institutions Action Items

Recommendations for Educational Institutions,
as part of AJC's Call to Action
Against Antisemitism in America.

AJC's Call to Action Against Antisemitism - A Society-Wide Nonpartisan Guide for America - Learn More

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AJC's Call to Action Against Antisemitism - A Society-Wide Nonpartisan Guide for America - Learn More

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Anti-Jewish prejudice and incidents are a growing concern on both U.S. college campuses and at an increasing number of secondary schools. According to AJC's State of Antisemitism in America 2023 Report, for American Jews with current or recent college experience, 25% say they have avoided wearing or carrying things that identify them as Jewish, and 24% say they have felt uncomfortable or unsafe at a campus event because they are Jewish. 

Educational institutions have the responsibility to protect students, staff, and faculty from antisemitism, harassment, and hostile campus and school environments that are the results of real or perceived Jewish and/or pro-Israel identities. Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act protects people from discrimination based on race, color, or national origin in programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance, including from the U.S. Department of Education. The law protects Jews from antisemitic harassment or other forms of discrimination, including those based on shared ancestry or ethnic characteristics. 

In addition to meeting pressing immediate needs of Jewish campus citizens, real change requires a sustained commitment by educational institutions to improving the learning and living environment for everyone, including Jewish community members.

Please note that the suggestions offered below are not exhaustive. There is always more that can be done. Recommendations that are specific to secondary schools are indicated as such.

For useful action plans that provide even more focused recommendations about immediate, near-term, and long-term action steps to respond to antisemitism and improve campus atmosphere, American Jewish Committee (AJC) has created toolkits for university administratorsfor public school administrators, and for independent school administrators

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Understanding Antisemitism

Ensure students have access to antisemitism resources and education | AJC’s Translate Hate, an online and in-print glossary, is a powerful, visual educational tool for students to identify antisemitic tropes, words, and symbols that often hide in plain sight. Public libraries in cities around the country have begun offering copies as a resource for readers; educational institutions can also use this model. In addition, it is important for students to understand Jewish peoplehood and that antisemitism is much more than a religious bias. 

Since antisemitism is not well understood by many Americans, education on antisemitism is crucial to fostering an environment with zero tolerance for anti-Jewish hate. It is also crucial for reassuring Jewish families in the school community that the school sees them in this moment and is prioritizing their safety and well-being. Organize educational programs on antisemitism for the school community, as well as age-appropriate student programming for primary and secondary schools. In addition to Translate HateAJC’s short, animated films on “Who are Jews?” and “What is antisemitism?” can also help educate.

Use the IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism as a resource | Reporting antisemitism, offering trainings and educational programs, and creating committees to combat the problem should all be rooted in a foundational understanding of what antisemitism is. Put simply, we cannot address something we cannot define. The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) Working Definition of Antisemitism is a clear and concise description of antisemitism in its various forms, including conspiracy theories, Holocaust denial and distortion, prejudices against Jews, and the rejection of Israel’s right to exist. Today, the IHRA Working Definition is the most widely adopted and used definition of antisemitism in the world, employed by over 100 entities, including over 40 governments. This definition is a non-binding educational tool for identifying and understanding antisemitism. It is expressly not intended to censor valid criticism of Israel. Educational institutions must make it clear that in identifying antisemitism, as with other forms of hatred and discrimination, there is no institutional restriction on protected speech. 

Recognize the difference between criticism of Israel and antisemitism | As antisemitism threatens the well-being of the Jewish community with renewed vigor after the horrific attacks on October 7, 2023 – and the subsequent war between Hamas and Israel – educational institutions must be keenly aware of how antisemitism can be cloaked under the guise of criticism of Israel. Numerous examples demonstrate how anti-Israel statements and actions can become antisemitic, with potentially perilous repercussions. While calls for rape or violence against Jews are clear calls for incitement, it is crucial to understand how some ideas or statements can be perceived as threatening to the Jewish community. For example: 

  • “From the River to the Sea” is a catch-all phrase that symbolizes Palestinian control over the entirety of Israel’s borders, from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. This saying is often interpreted as a call for the elimination of the State of Israel. 
  • “Globalize the Intifada” is a phrase used by pro-Palestinian activists that calls for aggressive resistance against Israel and those who support Israel. The most prominent expressions of intifada have been through violent terrorism, so this phrase is often understood by those saying and hearing it as encouraging indiscriminate violence against Israelis, Jews, and institutions supporting Israel.
  • Similarly, “Zionism is Racism” implies that self-determination is a right for all people, except Jews. There is nothing inherent to Zionism that contradicts support for Palestinian self-determination. According to AJC’s State of Antisemitism in America 2023 Report, 80% of Jews say caring about Israel is an important part of how they think about their Jewish identities. Therefore, calling all Zionists racists or saying Zionists deserve to die is dangerous not only to Israelis but towards the vast majority of American Jews.
  • Finally, holding Israel to a different standard. Expecting Israel to refrain from defending itself against terror attacks, particularly those that occurred on October 7, 2023 – the most deadly attack against Jews since the Holocaust –  is a double standard that would not be expected of any other democratic country.

Convene mandatory training for school administration and faculty on discussing the Israel-Palestinian conflict and antisemitism | Implement mandatory antisemitism education programs for school administrators, teachers, and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) professionals. Antisemitism shares commonalities with other forms of hate but also exhibits distinct manifestations. A comprehensive understanding of antisemitism among school leadership is vital for effectively addressing this issue. Similarly, offer training to faculty members on how to approach discussions related to the Israel-Palestinian conflict in the classroom that promote balanced and respectful dialogue. AJC’s content experts who specialize in educational spaces can provide these trainings. 

Include Jews and antisemitism in ethnic studies and DEI curricula Increase understanding of antisemitism by explicitly naming it and including it as an essential element of your institution’s commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI).

Programming in DEI spaces can and should productively address the distinctive histories of minority communities and the particular obstacles and hatreds they have faced, in ways that encourage an atmosphere of mutual respect, allyship, and dialogue. Jews have an important place in those conversations. General programs designed to combat racism and intolerance provide an important framework, especially for diverse and multicultural societies. However, if educational efforts to combat antisemitism are to succeed, special attention must be paid to the specificity of the problem. 

During orientation in high schools and on college campuses, students receive several mandatory trainings, including anti-harassment training and anti-racism training. Antisemitism is rarely included. And yet, one in five (20%) current or recent Jewish students reported feeling or being excluded from a group or event because they are Jewish—this is an 8 percentage point jump from one year ago (12% in 2022). Particularly on the heels of October 7, 2023, and these past months’ surge in antisemitism, educational institutions must begin to integrate antisemitism as a focus within DEI and in student trainings related to DEI, including first-year and transfer students’ orientations. 

As antisemitism presents itself in unique forms, teachers should be trained both to teach about the topic accurately and to be alert to its presence in the classroom. Anti-Israel animus can be a form of antisemitism, and students should have a nuanced and balanced understanding of the State of Israel and the people who live there. 

Secondary schools should consider introducing a dedicated unit on the Israel-Palestinian conflict to the appropriate history course, which presents multiple narratives and nuanced perspectives about the history and present-day situation. Such a unit would help prepare students for campus life and adulthood by giving them an academic grounding in the conflict and teaching them how to examine complex issues with integrity and empathy and interpret source material responsibly. Also consider integrating elements of Jewish history into history/social studies scope and sequence, including Jewish indigeneity to Israel in ancient history, Jewish life in Europe before the Holocaust, and the origins, development, and contributions of the American Jewish community. Please reach out to for guidance.

Additionally, as states consider ethnic studies curricula and other curricular content that addresses diversity and combating intolerance, lessons should include education about Jews, Judaism, Jewish history and Jewish contributions to America, Jewish diversity, and contemporary antisemitism. According to AJC’s State of Antisemitism in America 2023 Report, 72% of Americans and 77% of American Jews believe that state and local governments should include Jewish studies within the ethnic studies or history curricula in public schools.

Promote faculty and staff participation in educational opportunities | Consider participating directly in educational opportunities and programming to learn more about the Jewish people, Israel and Zionism, and antisemitism. Reach out to learn more about AJC’s partnership with Hillel International and Hillel’s Campus Climate Initiative. Additionally, AJC has opportunities for administrators to travel to Israel via Project Interchange to learn about the complex realities of Israeli culture and geopolitics. 

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Responding to Antisemitism

Prioritize physical security | Security concerns have risen in proportion to escalating threats of violence against Jews on campus in the months following October 7, 2023. It is the school’s responsibility to anticipate these security needs in Jewish cultural and religious spaces, for programming featuring Jewish and Israeli speakers, and in spaces where Jewish students and faculty routinely live and work and where they may be at risk. Ensuring the physical safety of Jewish students, faculty, and staff is a basic and necessary first step in creating an atmosphere where Jewish campus citizens can work and learn freely. 

In May, U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona provided universities and colleges with concrete examples to use in the application of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Schools should familiarize themselves with this guidance to ensure prevention of a hostile learning environment. Some of the examples of when an investigation can be opened include blocking the entrance to a program about Israel, harassment of Jewish students, chants of "go back to Europe," or professors openly expressing anti-Zionism. 

On campus, we recommend coordinating with Jewish organizations, such as Hillel and Chabad, to address current security needs, and we encourage university leaders to enforce existing rules and codes of conduct and take appropriate action, up to and including expulsion and/or termination, for anyone who threatens physical harm to Jews. 

If your school requires additional security reinforcements, AJC can help by connecting you with the DOJ’s Community Relations Service. Further, as schools grapple with when to engage law enforcement and how, we urge not just careful consideration as to whether to grant “admission” to many schools, but active partnership with law enforcement to ensure appropriate response. The Department of Homeland Security offers guidance for campus law enforcement and public safety to protect against targeted violence like that which is being seen against Jewish students at anti-Israel demonstrations. 

Condemn unequivocally | It is essential that university and secondary school administrations issue clear and unwavering statements condemning antisemitism when incidents occur if they regularly issue statements on external events. Normalization occurs when antisemitism is ignored, downplayed, or diluted and when authority figures fail to specifically name and condemn antisemitism. These statements should specifically name antisemitism and avoid performatively adding reference to other forms of hatred and bigotry. Such language diminishes the seriousness with which fighting antisemitism should be addressed. For two examples of strong responses to antisemitism, please see President Julio Frenk’s message to the University of Miami community and President Sian Leah Beilock's remarks to the Dartmouth University community

Have a clear policy about antisemitism | Using the IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism as a guide, ensure clarity as to what is considered antisemitism on campus. In particular, it is critical to differentiate between legitimate criticism of the State of Israel and antisemitic rhetoric and exclusion measures. Institutions should be aware of the ramifications of campus initiatives and events that create a hostile environment for Jewish and pro-Israel students, such as inflammatory and violent rhetoric on “apartheid walls” or that “Zionism is white supremacy,” when the majority of Jews say Israel is important to what being Jewish means to them1, amongst other examples. It should be made clear that it is antisemitic to exclude Jewish students or groups from campus social justice spaces because of their support for Israel, particularly when no other ethnic or religious group is asked about their connections to another country.

Clarify and publicize the rules surrounding campus protests and be prepared to enforce them | Protecting free speech on campus means ensuring that no single voice prevents others from speaking freely, and that hecklers are not given a veto to disrupt scheduled events. Administrators play a vital role in assigning time, place, and manner restrictions on protests, and enforcing these regulations promptly when they aren’t respected.

Review and inform social media and disciplinary policies to make clear to all students the bounds of acceptable behavior for your school community. In addition to publicizing school policies surrounding social media postings by students and faculty, schools should also hold conversations about the appropriate and healthy use of social media.

Enhance and promote reporting | All universities and secondary schools should have a clear mechanism for students to report antisemitism and should be transparent about the measures taken in response to such reports. Antisemitism is significantly underreported in the United States, including in school settings. Jewish students often hesitate to report antisemitic incidents, as they may believe that their experiences are not “bad enough” compared to other forms of oppression faced by their peers. Antisemitism should be treated with the same seriousness as other forms of bigotry.

Internally, one option is designating an educator, administrator, or advisor as a point person or resource for students if they experience antisemitism in the school setting. Take care to ensure that the responsible adult is someone who students will feel comfortable speaking to about antisemitism. Another option is a portal on the school website or an independent website, such as EthicsPoint, through which members of a school or work community can anonymously report discrimination, harassment, or hate speech violations. Schools should clearly outline the process for reviewing and adjudicating antisemitic incidents each year. Schools should also provide transparency to any affected students about how incidents will be investigated and addressed.

Externally, when antisemitism occurs, it is necessary that it be reported, whether to local law enforcement, the FBI, the Department of Education, or social media companies. Underreporting by the Jewish community creates gaps in how law enforcement, government, and civil society understand the problem. According to AJC’State of Antisemitism in America 2023 Report79% of American Jews who reported being targeted by an antisemitic remark in person did not report it. One reason why many Jews do not report is that they believe nothing will change (resignation in fighting antisemitism) and/or it is not serious enough (normalization of antisemitism). 

Clarify and raise awareness around the university’s standards for educational programming | Clarification is critical to ensure that events like teach-ins and panel discussions meet basic educational criteria, such as those outlined in the AAUP’s guidelines on academic freedom. It is essential that programming bearing the university’s name offers expert-led opportunities to learn about complex topics, including Israel/Palestine, Zionism, and antisemitism. Ensure your campus community knows that programming that bears the university’s name must meet these standards, including a transparent relationship between the session’s stated title and its contents. Programming on antisemitism should be especially sensitive to these standards. It should never become a shell for anti-Zionist or antisemitic messaging without reference to the history or lived experience of anti-Jewish hate.

Be on guard against efforts that silence voices or diminish intellectual pluralism | Recognize the impact of political statements by departments and programs, and the chilling effect these have on inclusion and free speech. For undergraduates and graduate students, junior and adjunct faculty, an atmosphere of free academic inquiry and exchange crucially requires an environment free from bias, including political bias. Consider taking steps in line with the 1967 University of Chicago Kalven Report, and discourage departments and programs from issuing statements that signal that only certain perspectives or identities are welcome or free to express themselves.

Similarly, the anti-normalization/non-dialogue stance of Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) Movement groups prohibits working with “Zionist” organizations and individuals, which is the majority of Jewish organizations and Jews. Even Shabbat meals and Holocaust remembrance events have been boycotted because Hillel or another major Jewish organization is participating. This politicization and weaponization is not the right message to be sending to students. Unfortunately, anti-Zionist activity on campus has too often included antisemitic messaging, harassment, and even violence. While anti-Zionist beliefs can of course be allowed on campus, universities must be aware of the potential antisemitic effects on Jewish students.

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Preventing Antisemitism

Connect directly with Jewish students | On campuses nationwide, Jewish and pro-Israel students have reported a sense of isolation, including at times from the administration, leading them to conclude that their concerns are not recognized. Jewish students need to know that their concerns are being heard and addressed. Work with AJC and campus organizations like Hillel and Chabad to engage with a diverse group of Jewish students to understand how situations like the October 2023 Hamas-Israel war and increased anti-Zionist/Israel rhetoric on campus is impacting their safety, sense of belonging, and overall experience on campus. 

Model and promote allyship | Demonstrate solidarity with Jewish students by:

  • Modeling “tone at the top” attention and concern for Jewish students’ rights and needs together with those of other groups.
  • Issuing clear unequivocal statements condemning antisemitic incidents when they occur.
  • Showing up in person at Jewish student events and celebrations.
  • Ensuring that cultural and religious sensitivity policies also include areas of concern for Jewish students and families. For example, not scheduling important programs on Jewish High Holidays, providing alternative food options for those who follow kosher dietary laws, and including schoolwide programming during Jewish American Heritage Month as a complement to other multicultural programming in the school or campus community.

Be prepared and proactive | Problems must be dealt with preemptively and in real-time, rather than responsively after-the-fact. An active peacekeeping approach to engaging with the student community ensures that administrators remain present and closely attuned to potentially harmful situations on the ground as they are happening and can respond before they spiral out of control.

There are days and events which are likely to trigger antisemitic incidents. Antisemitism spikes historically around three key areas: during elections, Jewish holidays, and when there is an uptick in violence in the Middle East. Since the October 7th Hamas terrorist attacks against Israel, antisemitic incidents have risen roughly 400% in the U.S, and similar trends are found around the world.

Ensure accommodation of Judaism and Jewish culture and practice | According to AJC’s State of Antisemitism in America 2023 Report25% of current or recent Jewish students reported they have been told they could not miss class for the Jewish holidays. Ensure accommodation of Jewish observances, including Shabbat, major Jewish holidays, as well as dietary requirements. These efforts will help Jewish students feel included on campus. 

Engage a cross-section of stakeholders to address campus antisemitism | Secondary schools and universities should create standing committees or task forces to combat antisemitism comprised of administrators, faculty, and Jewish students (as well as Jewish parents in secondary school spaces). Appoint members to a task force who are responsive to the concerns of the Jewish community, and committed to addressing the actual spaces where campus antisemitism is manifesting now, including anti-Zionist spaces. 

Such committees or task forces should not only address incidents of antisemitism as they arise but should also work proactively to prevent antisemitism by fostering an inclusive environment for Jewish students through education and the review and adoption of policies that ensure processes are standardized, effective, and implemented. Task forces can even develop campus-wide guides to address antisemitism, such as this one developed by university faculty and administration at American University, and inclusive of voices of Jewish citizens of campus as well as resources from Hillel, AJC, and other organizations. Ensure that there are clear timelines for review and implementation of task force recommendations and action steps, where appropriate. When plans come from within the school, they can be much more effective than a plan being developed by someone else outside the school.

In secondary schools in particular, it’s most critical to engage with parents and community leaders, and support student and parent Jewish affinity groups. 

  • Schools can convene and support student and parent Jewish affinity groups to provide a platform for open dialogue and mutual support. Reach out to Jewish affinity groups to check in on their well-being. Attend and encourage other administrators to participate in programming organized by Jewish affinity groups to express solidarity and better understand the needs and concerns of the Jewish community. 
  • Schools may wish to convene your Parent Teacher Association to discuss antisemitism and consider encouraging Jewish parent affinity groups to provide a platform for open dialogue and mutual support. Attend and encourage other administrators to participate in programming organized by local synagogues or Jewish community groups to express solidarity and better understand the needs and concerns of the Jewish community.

Foster relationship-building programs | Universities are encouraged to create programs that build relationships among diverse student religious and cultural groups. Elevate the voices of Jewish, Muslim, Israeli, Arab, and Palestinian students, faculty, and community members who are actively pursuing sustained dialogue, and mutual understanding. Often, quieter and less extreme voices have little visibility on campus compared to those who actively seek attention through inflammatory rhetoric. Find ways to include voices that seek to engage in constructive dialogue and support their efforts.

Interfaith and intergroup specialists, including chaplains, can create pathways towards engaging together on challenging topics. Create forums for students to engage in ways that move conversations toward cultivating empathy and building bridges that support living together in community.

Review best practices from other universities, including ideas outside the United States | In the past decade, universities overseas, especially in Europe, have faced issues of sustained antisemitism before campuses in the United States. While the U.S. education system is markedly different, there are still best practices that can be utilized from universities around the world. For example, the Parliamentary Taskforce on Antisemitism in Higher Education in the United Kingdom published a critical resource called Understanding Jewish Experience in Higher Education, which provides many recommendations applicable for U.S. colleges and universities, especially since antisemitism is a global problem.

Support varied academic perspectives and commit to disrupting anti-Zionist echo chambers on campus | Students taking classes on Jewish history, Zionism, Israel-Palestine, and related topics should be exposed to multiple perspectives. Often Jewish, Israeli, and Zionist voices are not included in these conversations. On some university campuses where diversity of every other kind is welcomed, Jewish American and Israeli American students are finding it increasingly difficult to be fully themselves, noting frequent litmus tests governing their inclusion. Recent data reveals that 26% of Jewish students have avoided expressing views on Israel on campus or with classmates out of fear of antisemitism. Students have shared their growing concerns for their grades being lowered for supporting Israel’s existence or not being able to wear Israel-related clothing to some classes given the anti-Israel positions of the professor. It is critical to foster intellectual diversity in academic programs and departments. Universities have a vital role to play in ensuring that multiple perspectives about Israel and Zionism are represented on campus to discuss the complex realities of the Middle East. 

Use professionalization as an opportunity to foster inclusive and pluralistic spaces | Professionalization is an opportunity for early career teachers and researchers to hone the skills required to cultivate critical thinking in their classrooms and foster truly inclusive and pluralistic educational and research spaces. Set a clear expectation for junior faculty, all but dissertation (ABD) PhD students, teaching assistants (TAs) or teaching fellows (TFs), and professional school instructors that leadership in the classroom requires creating space for critical dialogue and intellectual curiosity, and fostering the skills required for evidence-based argument, particularly on complex topics like Israel/Palestine. New research that is committed to understanding the historical sources of antisemitism and its relationship to other forms of extremism and hate is needed. Discourage instructional models that instrumentalize the classroom to promote partisan political opinions or showcase ideologically driven activism that shuts down critical inquiry.

Adopt innovative hiring practices | New hiring practices are needed to ensure viewpoint diversity in university departments, schools, and programs. Elected officials, including Members of Congress, have directly challenged schools that have failed to take action against intransigent antisemitism. University administrators should be prepared to challenge departments and programs that are resistant to fostering academic exchange that includes diverse, fact-based perspectives about Israel and Zionism, and that fail to take accusations of systemic antisemitism seriously. Relatedly, refine hiring practices for new faculty and staff. Evaluate applicants to favor cooperative competency. Colleges and universities should favor those applicants who can display a respect for the diversity of ideas, an ability to engage in respectful ways during disagreements, and a basic grasp on communications literacy.

Encourage media literacy | Research shows that misinformation and conspiracy theories, which spread through unscrupulous media outlets and on social media, have the potential to impact not only people’s beliefs but also their actions. Indeed, many perpetrators of recent physical attacks against Jews in America were shown to have been influenced by and contributed to the virulent antisemitic content on various social media platforms. As conspiracy theories take an ever-growing hold on social media, robust education on the importance of critical thinking and interrogation of sources for bias and untruths is critical.

Celebrate Jewish American Heritage Month | Create schoolwide and divisional programs and initiatives that acknowledge and celebrate Jewish American Heritage Month (JAHM) each May to promote awareness and appreciation of Jewish contributions to American society.

Strengthen and revisit Holocaust education | Holocaust education plays a critical role in understanding where unchecked antisemitism can lead. Whether or not Holocaust education is required in your state, ensure that Holocaust education is a mandatory, prominent, and well-integrated component of the curriculum, emphasizing the historical importance of this subject. Ensure that Holocaust education focuses deeply on Jewish physical, cultural, and spiritual resistance to Nazi oppression. A nationwide 2020 survey of Millennials and Gen Z on Holocaust knowledge conducted by the Claims Conference found a clear lack of awareness of key historical facts; 63% of respondents did not know that six million Jews were murdered during the Holocaust and 36% thought that “two million or fewer Jews” were killed. Because antisemitism did not end with the Holocaust, Holocaust education should include examples of contemporary antisemitism, using the lessons of the Holocaust to emphasize to students that it is incumbent on everyone to speak out against hatred both on and offline. According to AJC's State of Antisemitism in America 2023 ReportU.S. adults who know more about the Holocaust are more likely to likely to know what antisemitism is than those who know less (85% vs. 48%); more likely to say that it has increased in the past 5 years (53% vs. 39%); and more likely to say it is a serious problem in the United States (72% vs. 63%). Students, parents, and educators should review the laws around Holocaust education in their state. If the state does not mandate Holocaust education, call on local elected officials, school boards, and principals to include it in curriculum requirements, utilizing the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s educational materials. If the state does have Holocaust education curriculum guidelines, urge elected officials to conduct an audit of the efficacy of the Holocaust education provided.

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