The Rising Pressure to Counter Anti-Semitism in American Institutions

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The Anti-Defamation League strives to eliminate anti-semitism across colleges in the US (Image credit: The Anti-Defamation League).

On Wednesday, November 1, a letter was sent to the United States’s top-ranked law schools by 27 major law firms. These signatories also included six of the top ten US law firms by gross revenue, such as Kirkland & Ellis and Latham & Watkins. 

The letter follows the rise of increasing anti-semitism at US universities in the wake of the Israel-Hamas war in the Middle East. The Anti-Defamation League, a New-York based Jewish NGO, has reported a 400% rise in anti=semitic incidents. Jewish students at Cornell experienced violent threats, which led to the arrest of Patrick Dai, who was charged with posting death threats.

The situation arose for the first time when Winston & Strawn rescinded their job offer to an NYU law school student who had openly blamed Israel for Hamas’s attacks. While the student was not explicitly named, Ryna Workman, the president of the NYU Bar Association, went viral in the aftermath of October 7th for stating that “Israel bears full responsibility” for Hamas’s actions.

On October 15th, Steven Davidoff Solomon, a Berkeley Law professor, wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal urging law firms not to hire students that “endorse…hate, dehumanization or anti-Semitism.” In the letter posted by the law firms, they state that there would be no tolerance for “anti-semitism, islamophobia, racism or any other form of violence or bigotry” on campuses or workplaces.

Rising anti-semitism was also a concern in the Senate, especially for Mitch McConnell, the Republican minority leader. He states that “neither thick-headed young activists nor mealy mouthed administrators can hold a candle to university faculties when it comes to moral obtuseness.”Universities have already responded to the rising outside pressure to take a tougher stance. On November 1st, Columbia University announced the creation of a task force and the University of Pennsylvania, after facing a donor revolt, outlined an action plan to combat anti-semitism. Furthermore, New York Assembly Republicans introduced the Dismantling Student Anti-semitism Act which would make anti-semitism training for students and staff mandatory. If schools do not comply, they would be cut off from state funding.

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