White House convenes summit to address spike in campus antisemitism during Israel-Hamas war


WASHINGTON ((JEWISH REVIEW)) — The Biden administration is convening a summit with Jewish leaders on Monday on what it says is an “alarming” rise in reports of antisemitism on college campuses in the wake of the Israel-Hamas war.

Doug Emhoff, the Jewish Second Gentleman who launched a task force on antisemitism last year along with the Biden administration’s plan to counter anti-Jewish bigotry, will convene the meeting, which will take place at the Department of Education.

“The Biden-Harris Administration is taking multiple actions to address the alarming rise of reported antisemitic incidents at schools and on college campuses, since the October 7th Hamas terrorist attacks in Israel,” said an email to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency from a White House official.

Education Secretary Miguel Cardona will also attend the meeting, a White House official said. Later this week, Cardona and Neera Tanden, President Joe Biden’s top domestic advisor, will visit a university campus and hold a roundtable with Jewish students. White House officials did not respond to an inquiry regarding which school they will visit.

Since Oct. 7, when Hamas invaded Israel, killing more than 1,400 people, most of them civilians, pro-Palestinian groups at a series of campuses have celebrated or endorsed the attack. At multiple campuses, Jewish students have been barricaded in buildings amid pro-Palestinian protests. Other Jewish students have been assaulted or engaged in violent altercations with pro-Palestinian students.

Last week, the White House decried what it called an “extremely disturbing pattern of antisemitic messages being conveyed on college campuses” recently, adding, “Delegitimizing the State of Israel while praising the Hamas terrorist murderers who burned innocent people alive, or targeting Jewish students, is the definition of unacceptable — and the definition of antisemitism.”

Over the weekend, anonymous antisemitic posts on a Greek life website threatened to “shoot up” the Cornell University kosher dining hall and kill and rape Jewish students. Police were called to the dining hall, and the campus Hillel warned students to stay away from it.

Separately, Deborah Lipstadt, the State Department’s envoy to combat and monitor antisemitism, said the Biden Administration was “deeply concerned” what she said was a “dramatic increase” in antisemitic incidents worldwide since Oct. 7.

“Governments, law enforcement, and community groups in Europe, Latin America, Australia, South Africa, North America, Russia, and elsewhere have reported a sharp increase in antisemitic incidents, rhetoric, and incitement in the past three weeks,” she said. “Violent incidents throughout the world in October have included harassment of and attacks on Jewish individuals, and defacement of and attacks on Jewish sites.”

On Sunday, hundreds of people stormed onto the tarmac at the airport in Russia’s Dagestan republic as a flight from Israel arrived, reportedly yelling antisemitic slogans and forcing officials to shut the airport down.

Jewish officials attending the Department of Education meeting  will include William Daroff, the CEO of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations; Sheila Katz, the National Council of Jewish Women CEO; Jonathan Greenblatt, the Anti-Defamation League CEO; Eric Fingerhut, the Jewish Federations of North America CEO; Adam Lehman, the CEO of Hillel International; and Nathan Diament, the Washington director of the Orthodox Union,

The White House official’s email listed other actions the Biden Administration has taken since Oct. 7, including the Justice Department and Department of Homeland Security engaging law enforcement nationwide on the campus, local and state level; support for Jewish, Muslim and Arab students on campuses around the country; and outreach from federal cybersecurity experts to schools.

The email said the Biden Administration has also expedited an initiative launched just over a week before the attacks to instruct federal officials to include antisemitism and other forms of religious bigotry as protected under civil rights law. That initiative was part of a broader presidential strategy to combat antisemitism launched in May, the first of its kind.

The administration says it has speeded up the process to file complaints and will also offer technical assistance to people on campuses who want to file complaints.