Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights under Law

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Louis D. Brandeis Center LOgo.jpg
Founded 2012
Founder Kenneth L. Marcus
Focus Civil and Human Rights
Slogan The mission of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law is to advance the civil and human rights of the Jewish people and promote justice for all.
Website brandeiscenter.com

The Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law (LDB) is an independent, unaffiliated, nonprofit corporation established to advance the civil and human rights of the Jewish people and promote justice for all.[1] LDB conducts research, education, and advocacy to combat the resurgence of anti-Semitism on college and university campuses.[2] LDB is not affiliated with the Massachusetts University, the Kentucky law school, or any of the other institutions that share the name and honor the memory of the late U.S. Supreme Court justice.[citation needed]


LDB was founded in early 2012 by Kenneth L. Marcus, a former Staff Director of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights[3][4] and author of The Definition of Antisemitism (Oxford University Press, 2015).[5] Members of the Board of Directors include: Richard Cravatts, Tevi Troy, L. Rachel Lerman, Esq., and Adam S. Feuerstein. Since its founding, LDB has been in the forefront of the fight to ensure that federal and state civil rights laws are enforced on university and college campuses. They have been involved in such struggles at Florida Atlantic University and the University of California, as well as issuing guidelines for combating campus anti-Semitism.[6]

In 2013, LDB launched a new initiative establishing law student chapters at other law schools in the United States. The mission of the chapters is to advance the organization's mandate to combat campus anti-Semitism through legal means.[7]


LDB definition of anti-Semitism follows that of the European Union: “Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”[8]

In November 2012, LDB President Kenneth L. Marcus testified before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights as an expert on discrimination against Muslim and Arab Americans. His testimony highlights discrimination in public schools and penal institutions, as well as harmful stereotypes in popular culture.

In March 2013, LDB launched a Campus Anti-Semitism Legal Advocacy Initiative.[9] Specifically, LDB works with faculty and students to investigate incidents, works with administration on procedures and protocols and files legal complaints when necessary and appropriate.

LDB considers adopting a definition of anti-Semitism to be crucial for universities and government to make clear the boundaries between hateful actions and legitimate behavior. The US State Department provides a definition of anti-Semitism, but it only is applied for international monitoring.[10] LDB is working with universities and domestic government bodies to adopt a definition of anti-Semitism. In March 2016, the University of California Board of Regents adopted a Statement of Principles Against Intolerance, which included a contextual statement declaring that, “Anti-Semitism and anti-Semitic forms of anti-Zionism are forms of discrimination and will not be tolerated at the University of California.”[11] LDB had previously issued a letter to the Board of Regents, highlighting incidents at UCLA, Santa Barbara, Davis, Berkeley, and Irvine.[12]

Fact Sheet on the Elements of Anti-Semitic Discourse[edit]

On August 29, 2014, the Center released a fact sheet that detailed ten common tropes of anti-semitism.[13] These tropes are rooted in medieval anti-semitism, but LBD President Ken Marcus claims that, “The roots of anti-Semitic discourse, detailed in the Brandeis Center’s fact sheet, are very old. But antiquated doesn’t mean out of touch,”[14] In turn, the fact sheet has been utilized as a method of understanding hate speech and discrimination against Jews in colleges and Universities.[15] The ten tropes named by the list are as follows:

  • Demonization
  • Deicide Myth
  • Ritual Slaughter
  • The Wandering Jew
  • Carnality
  • Well-Poisoning and Desecration of the Host
  • Dirt and Disease
  • Money and Criminality
  • Global Conspiracy
  • Beastilization

Anti-Semitism Report[edit]

In February 2015, the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights under Law and Trinity College issued an “Anti-Semitism Report,”[16] presenting results from a national demographic survey of American Jewish college students. The survey had a 10-12% response rate, does not claim to be representative, and included 1,157 self-identified Jewish students at 55 campuses nationwide. The report showed that 54% of the 1,157 self-identified Jewish students at 55 campuses nationwide who took part in the online survey reported having experienced or witnessed anti-Semitism on their campuses during the Spring semester of the last academic year. The National Demographic Survey of American Jewish College Students, which covered a variety of topics, was conducted in spring 2014 by a research team from Trinity College. The data provide a snapshot of the types, context, and location of anti-Semitism as experienced by a large national sample of Jewish students at university and four-year college campuses.[17] According to Kenneth L. Marcus, President of the Louis D. Brandeis Center, the findings should be a wake-up call to college administrators that Jewish students face real problems of bias.[18]

The report has been widely used in media reports on anti-Semitism. Immediately after its issuance, the report was used in several media reports on an issue at UCLA in which Rachel Beyda, a Jewish woman student applicant for the Student Council’s Judicial Board, was initially rejected after being asked: “Given that you are a Jewish student and very active in the Jewish community, how do you see yourself being able to maintain an unbiased view?” [19] According to the New York Times, students and Jewish leaders said that the discussion about whether belonging to Jewish student organizations would be a conflict of interest echoed the kind of questions, prejudices and tropes — particularly about divided loyalties — that have plagued Jews across the globe for centuries, and presented a striking example of the types of anti-Semitism the 2015 report captured.[20]

The report was also heavily cited by mainstream Jewish news sources and education sources. For example, Inside Higher Ed focused on the more surprising findings of the report, like the fact high rates of anti-Semitism also were reported at institutions regardless of location or type of institution, that the data from the survey suggest that discrimination occurs in low-level, everyday interpersonal activities, and that Jewish students feel their reports of anti-Semitism are largely ignored by the administration.[18] However, not all reception was positive, with The Forward arguing that the study documented only a snapshot in time rather than a trend, because it did not have a representative sample of Jewish college students and because it allowed students to define anti-Semitism (leaving the term open to impression).[21]

The report continues to be cited in discussions of campus anti-Semitism today, and unfortunately, other studies, such as the AMCHA Initiative’s July 2016 Report of Anti-Semitic Activity in the First Half of 2016, correlate with the data from the LDB-Trinity Report, and show that the numbers of anti-Semitic incidents on campuses are even rising.[22]


The Boycott, Sanctions, Divestment (BDS) movement against Israel has gained significant momentum in recent years, particularly on college campuses. According to a report released in November 2015 by the Anti-Defamation League, divestment resolutions are regularly being introduced on college campuses and the strategies used in many BDS campaigns are described as anti-Semitic.[23] It is in the Brandeis Center's view that the BDS campaign is anti-Semitic because some of its proponents act out of conscious hostility to the Jewish people; others act from unconscious or tacit disdain for Jews; and still others operate out of a climate of opinion that contains elements that are hostile to Jews and serve as the conduits through whom anti-Jewish tropes and memes are communicated; while all of them work to sustain a movement that attacks the commitment to Israel that is central to the identity of the overwhelming majority of Jewish people. With the rise of the BDS movement, the Brandeis Center has increasingly sought to deal with the anti-Semitism associated with the movement.[24]

Title VI Reform[edit]

Since its creation in 1965[25] the Higher Education Act (HEA) has been reauthorized by congress eight times.[26] The last of these took place in 2008. Such a reform had been widely anticipated, owing to a failed attempt at re-authorisation in 2003.[27] During this reform period, Title VI of the HEA was reviewed.

Title VI provides federal funds to 129 international studies and foreign language centers at universities nationwide.[28] The objective of this act is to ensure and encourage diverse perspectives in order to enhance national security. As such, Title VI supplies grants for international language studies, business and international education programs as well as international policy.[29] Moreover, the recipients of these funds are required to engage in ‘public outreach’ for K-12, teachers, educators and the general public.[28]

Over the past decade concerns have been raised over these title VI funded programs. Critics have emphasized that many of the international programs funded engage in biased, anti-American and anti-Israel rhetoric, with no offers of counterbalance.[30] Certainly, a 2006 review mandated by Congress found that the programs were not reaching their goals. Seeking to rectify this, Congress expressed the need for greater oversight by the Department of Education, as well as an investigation to ensure these programs reflected “diverse perspectives”.[31]

Despite these reforms, the issues within Title VI have been deemed endemic. Writing in The Hill, Louis D. Brandeis Center Founder Kenneth L. Marcus argued that “title VI doesn’t need to be tweaked-it needs to be overhauled”.[31] This declaration followed a joint statement released by 10 groups on September 17, 2014, which the Brandeis Center coordinated.[32]

This joint statement[33] expressed the deep concerns over the misuse of tax payer money, arguing that “these outreach programs, which have no congressional oversight, often disseminate anti-American and anti-Israel falsehoods.”[34] Furthermore, the groups voiced the opinion that “ too often exclude scholars with diverse perspectives while stifling discourse on critical issues. The biased learning environment that results suppresses the academic freedom of students and faculty with different views. At some institutions, students are afraid to disagree with their professors.”[35] This statement was accompanied by a white paper[36] published by the Brandeis Center as well as a report by the AMCHA Initiative[37] underscoring the negative effects this biased perspective produces on campuses, UCLA specifically.[38] The AMCHA study found that “any time UCLA’s center sponsored or co-sponsored an event mentioning Israel from Fall 2010 to Spring 2013, 93% of the time the mention was negative and critical – as if Israel is a blight on the planet.”[39]

UCLA's media relations office issued a statement saying that the university "remains dedicated to complying with all federal laws and respecting the free and open exchange of ideas representing diverse viewpoints.” [38]

In light of such issues, the joint statement calls for changes in the Title VI program which would 1) “[r]equire recipients of Title VI funds to establish grievance procedures to address complaints that programs are not reflecting diverse perspectives and a wide range of views” and 2) “[r]equire the U.S. Department of Education to establish a formal complaint-resolution process similar to that in use to enforce Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.” [38]

Responding to this statement Amy W. Newhall, executive director of the Middle East Studies Association (MESA), asserted that MESA “resolutely opposes all forms of hate speech and discrimination, including anti-Semitism,” but “is concerned that some of the reports issued by partisan political groups based outside academia may actually weaken efforts to combat anti-Semitism by portraying all criticism of Israeli policies as a form of anti-Semitism or as ‘anti-Israel.’” [40]

However, as Kenneth L. Marcus asserts in a letter to the editor of The Chronicle of Higher Education the co-signatories of the joint statement[41] “ urge the opposite: accountability systems to ensure that these programs offer the diversity of perspectives that existing law requires.”[27] As said statement concludes: “Arguably, Title VI programs no longer serve a legitimate purpose... In 2011, Congress reduced Title VI funding nationwide by 40 percent, from $34 million to $18 million. Unless effective and necessary reforms can be enacted, Congress may have to consider reducing or eliminating Title VI funding from Middle East studies centers.”[35]

LDB Law Student Chapters[edit]

In 2013, LDB launched an initiative to form a student network among United States law schools.[42] The first chapter was launched at UCLA on October 15, 2013. The network has spread to include 18 universities.

According to Brandeis Center lawyer Danit Sibovits, the chapters seek to “engage law students in civil rights work and engage them in public advocacy” and provide “an opportunity for law students to gain practical legal experience while they are still in school.”[7] Speakers may address topics such as Jewish civil rights advocacy, campus anti-Semitism, international human rights law, Israel legal advocacy, counter-terrorism legal policy.

LDB law students investigate anti-Semitic incidents, provide pro-bono legal research and advocacy services to victims of discrimination, file legal complaints, and work with university administrators or policies to protect Jewish students.[43] For example, the LDB chapter at UCLA sent a letter in support of Graduate Student Association President Milan Chatterjee, who had been the subject of an impeachment campaign stemming from his decision, and that of his cabinet, to remain neutral on the Boycotts, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) Against Israel Movement.[44]

LDB law student chapters span across the country from New York to Los Angeles, Seattle to Atlanta, Philadelphia to Chicago, and the initiative continues to grow. The current list of law student chapters includes: Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, New York City, NY; Chicago Kent College of Law, Chicago, IL; City University of New York (CUNY) Law School, Queens, NY; Cornell University School of Law, Ithaca, NY; DePaul University College of Law, Chicago, IL; Emory University School of Law, Atlanta, GA; Harvard University Law School, Cambridge, MA; Loyola University of Chicago School of Law,[45] Chicago, IL; Northeastern University School of Law, Boston, MA; University of California – Berkeley School of Law, Berkeley, CA; University of California – Los Angeles (UCLA) School of Law, Los Angeles, CA; University of Chicago School of Law, Chicago, IL; University of Minnesota Law School, Minneapolis, Minnesota; University of Pennsylvania School of Law, Philadelphia, PA; University of St. Thomas School of Law, Minneapolis, MN; University of Virginia School of Law, Charlottesville, VA; University of Washington School of Law, Seattle, WA; William Mitchell College of Law, St. Paul, Minnesota.

Legal Advocacy[edit]

Since its inception, the Brandeis Center has stepped up for the rights of Jewish college and university students throughout the United States. As stated in its mission statement, "In the Twenty-first Century, the leading civil and human rights challenge facing North American Jewry is the resurgent problem of anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism on university campuses. This social problem requires an immediate, effective, and coordinated legal response."[46] Below are several examples of the Brandeis Center’s legal responses to anti-Semitism on campus:

ASA Lawsuit[edit]

In December 2013 the ASA (America Studies Association), a group of educators and academics who are focused on American Studies, passed an academic boycott of Israel.[47] The action quickly prompted a severe backlash from academics, upwards of 100 University Presidents denounced the boycott,[48] and members of the association. With the assistance of the Louis D. Brandeis Center, four distinguished members of the ASA filed suit against the organization in response to the boycott, claiming the group had broken DC law on non-profits and blatantly politicized a traditionally apolitical organization.[49] In laying out the Brandeis Center's position on the ASA case in Newsweek, Ken Marcus asks, "Is ASA an academic association devoted to the promotion of knowledge or instead a political group masquerading as a non-profit for tax-exempt status?"[50] Although the case continues to be litigated, its impact is already being felt in other academic organizations. The AAA's (American Anthropological Association) membership narrowly rejected[51] a similar measure to the ASA. The group's refusal of the boycott stems primarily from the intense pressure felt from the ASA lawsuit and a newfound awareness of groups like the Brandeis Center's willingness to fight against these sort of actions.[52]

Harvard Soda Stream Controversy[edit]

In 2014, Harvard University's dining service suspended the use of Israeli manufactured SodaStream machines, due to heavy pressure from pro-Palestinian student activists.[53] This boycott was quickly met with criticism from pro-Israel and Jewish advocacy groups, particularly the Brandeis Center. In a letter to Harvard President Drew Gilpin Faust, Kenneth L. Marcus stated,

"these “micro-BDS” efforts are, in many ways, more dangerous than broader campaigns against the entire country of Israel, because they are sneakier and more deceptive. They target one or two companies, or a short list of Israeli politicians or universities. And they claim that they are not advocating boycotts against the entire Jewish nation. But they are based on the notion that it is okay to apply different standards to Israelis than to the rest of the world’s peoples."[54]

This sharp condemnation led to Harvard's President revoking the dining services ban on the machines, a victory for anti-BDS forces.[55]

UCLA Undergraduate Student Assembly Conference Anti-Semitism[edit]

University of California, Los Angeles's Undergraduate Student Assembly Conference came under fire in the spring of 2015 for allegations that it had denied the nomination of Sophomore Rachel Beyda due to her Jewish heritage. During the Assembly's February 17 meeting, Ms. Beyda was grilled on her capability of being an unbiased student judge because of a perceived inherent bias to Jewish groups.[20] When Ms. Beyda left the room and the assembly was set to vote, several members of the assembly debated, for over 40 minutes, her ability to remain honest, unbiased, and loyal based on her Jewish heritage, and ties to Jewish groups like Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life. The counsel initially voted against her initiation, but after a faculty member in attendance asked the students to re-evaluate their reasons for denying Ms. Beyda, she was voted into the position. The debate was captured on camera,[56] prompting a flurry of condemnations.[57] The Brandeis Center along with their UCLA LDB law student chapter, immediately wrote to UCLA’s Chancellor and Vice Chancellor. Brandeis Center President Kenneth L. Marcus sharply critiqued the move stating, " This deplorable UCLA student government debate raised old-fashioned canards about whether Jews could be entrusted with delicate positions in light of supposedly divided loyalty. It is a throwback to old racist views of the sort that have long since been discredited. Shame on UCLA’s student government for indulging in this display of stereotypes and defamations"[58] Following these condemnations from the Brandeis Center and other groups, the Chancellor[59] and Vice Chancellor[60] responded by condemning this blatant anti-Semitism in strong terms, and the four students who were primarily engaged in this anti-Semitic questioning issued a public apology in the UCLA student newspaper, the Daily Bruin.

The issues raised by her nomination's initial dismissal continues to be a point of contention on the campus.[54]

Brooklyn College Ejection of Pro-Israeli Jewish Students[edit]

In February 2013, four Jewish students at Brooklyn College were forcibly ejected from an anti-Israel event held on campus, co-sponsored by Brooklyn College’s political science department, and the student group, Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP).[61] The four students had brought information with them that they intended to utilize during the question and answer section of the event. Organizers of the event confronted them, demanded they hand over the papers, and then asked a Brooklyn College security guard to remove the students from the event.[62] He did. The Brandeis Center represented three of these students and pushed back on the organizers assertions that they were rightfully ejected, a claim that was invalidated after a CUNY report on the incident concluded that there was "no justification for the removal of the four students."[63] Following the Brandeis Center’s representation, Brooklyn College President Karen Gould released a statement almost a year later apologizing to the students for the incident.[64] Additionally, the school updated their policy and guidelines for the management of public events hosted by student clubs to prevent similar incidents from occurring, specifically requiring the reading of the “THE COLLEGE DIVERSE VIEWPOINTS STATEMENT,” which states:

Welcome to Brooklyn College and to today’s student club hosted event. Brooklyn College believes that the diversity of our student body is a valuable asset and student led events can be a critical part of preparing our students for future leadership and career success.

Please note that all participants at any event on campus must be respectful of our diverse community and the viewpoints that are expressed. Disruptive behavior of any sort will not be tolerated. We thank you in advance for your cooperation.[65][66]

For about a year after these changes were made, there were not many reports of anti-Semitism on Brooklyn College’s campus. However, Brooklyn College is again experiencing reported anti-Semitic incidents, demonstrating the perseverance of anti-Semitic students. This includes a 2016 Faculty council meeting in which Professor Yedidyah Langsam, chairman of the council was called a “zionist pig” by an anti-Israel protestor.


LDB authors have published numerous books, research articles, and opinion pieces that are relevant to LDB's mission.[67]


Research : Testimony


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  36. ^ http://brandeiscenter.com/images/uploads/practices/antisemitism_whitepaper.pdf
  37. ^ http://www.amchainitiative.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/CNES-Report.pdf
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  67. ^ "Publications". Retrieved 5 July 2016. 

External links[edit]