North Shore task force holding forum to address anti-Semitism on college campuses


“Campus anti-Semitism is becoming more complex and pervasive,” says Kenneth L. Marcus.


OCTOBER 19, 2017 – SWAMPSCOTT – Rabbi Michael Ragozin was particularly fired up during his 2016 Kol Nidre sermon at Congregation Shirat Hayam. The topic was anti-Semitism on college campuses, an issue he said “Gets me in the kishkes. It was in college that my Jewish identity solidified and set me on my trajectory. I don’t know that I would have grown in the same way if I had been under attack simply for being Jewish.”

That sermon generated interest and launched the Campus Anti-Semitism Task Force of the North Shore. Its mission is to promote awareness of campus anti-Semitism; to educate teens on how to deal with situations they may encounter; and to empower students to advocate for themselves and others.

Task force participants include members of Shirat Hayam in Swampscott, Temple Emanu-El in Marblehead, unaffiliated families, and Marty Schneer, executive director of the Jewish Community Center of the North Shore.

“The issue of campus anti-Semitism is not the sole dominion of a single individual or shul,” Rabbi Ragozin said. “We must all work together to put an end to the hate, lies, disinformation, and intimidation on college campuses.”

On Sunday, Oct. 29, the task force will sponsor its fall event, “What’s Up at College,” a panel discussion about Jewish life on campus geared to parents and teens. The panel includes current college students, professionals and alumni. It will take place from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at Congregation Shirat Hayam, 55 Atlantic Ave., in Swampscott. Rabbi Ragozin will moderate.

“I hope teens and their parents will leave feeling empowered,” said Arinne Braverman, one of the panelists and the former executive director of Northeastern University Hillel. She will provide information about how the State Department defines an anti-Semitic act and will address the active role students and their families can play by participating in community responses to campus incidents.

Two alumni of the Epstein Hillel School in Marblehead, Dylann Cooper, a senior at Roger Williams College, and Zach Shwartz, a graduate of Boston University, will be joined on the panel by Tufts University sophomores Madeline Blondy and Rachel Wulf.

Last April on the night before Passover, members of the Tufts Community Union Senate passed a divestment resolution that accused Israel of being an apartheid regime and endorsed the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) Movement.

Similar issues are arising widely and more frequently, according to Kenneth L. Marcus, president and general counsel of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law in Washington, D.C., and author of “The Definition of Anti-Semitism” and “Jewish Identity and Civil Rights in America.”

“We’re seeing four important trends lately,” he said. “First, alt-right activity is substantially increasing. Second, left wing anti-Zionist activity continues to surge. Third, in the current environment, anti-Zionist activity tends to merge with other campus protest activity, such as anti-Trump, anti-fascist, and Black Lives Matter. Finally, campus anti-Semitism continues to spread throughout the country, no longer focused on a few states or regions.

“Campus anti-Semitism is becoming more complex and pervasive,” Marcus said.

Nationwide, there have been 457 incidents so far in 2017, including 27 in Massachusetts, according to the AMCHA Initiative, a California-based nonprofit that tracks anti-Semitic acts at institutions of higher learning (

Nonetheless, Marcus is heartened that the Jewish community is becoming more aware of the problem and is ready to take action. “There are now increasing numbers of Jewish, pro-Israel, and counter anti-Semitism events at many colleges,” he said. “While it is true some problems are worsening, it is also true that we are getting stronger and better able to fight them.”

Jahna Gregory, a North Shore task force member and Marblehead mother of three, is pleased the group is fulfilling its mission of awareness, education, and advocacy. At its next event, the task force will invite Braverman to lead a one-day workshop of tools and strategies for dealing with campus anti-Semitism that she developed while at Northeastern.

“It is important that the Jewish community not isolate ourselves after anti-Semitic incidents and that we send an unambiguous message to our Jewish young adults that they should never allow themselves to be intimidated into silence or hiding their Judaism,” said Braverman.

“As Elie Wiesel said, ‘Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.’”

For more information, email, call 781-599-8005, or visit

Ken Marcus: One on One

During his Boston stay, Kenneth Marcus  answered these questions for The Journal:

JJ: How is the Louis D. Brandeis Center addressing preparing high school kids for what to expect when they arrive on campus?

KM: The Louis D. Brandeis Center prepares fact sheets and resource guides that help incoming Jewish college students know their legal rights. For example, we have a short guide to the laws against campus anti-Semitism that can be downloaded free from LDB’s website: brandeiscenter. com/ publications/ factsheets/title_vi_fact_ sheet. We also frequently speak on college campuses, including special presentations for undergraduates, law students, faculty and administrators.

Most importantly, college students should know that LDB’s lawyers are available freeof- charge to consult with them about any anti-Jewish discrimination or harassment that they might encounter. They can call us on the phone at 202-559-9296. Our lawyers are always happy to speak with students. That’s what we’re here for. Alternatively, if students are more comfortable reaching us over the internet, they can contact us here: brandeiscenter. com/contact.

JJ: Students for Justice in Palestine (an anti-Zionist, pro-Palestinian college student activism organization) is wellfunded, disciplined and aggressive. How can our Jewish students maintain the moral high ground of our heritage while not being steamrolled by this opposition?

KM: This is a very important question. It is important always to maintain the moral high ground. This means that our students need to maintain clean hands. In other words, they must always remember their values and their ethics. No matter what the challenges, we must respond in a way that we can be proud of. That means that we must never stoop to the levels of our adversaries, whomever they may be. In responding to adversity, students should do so in a way that maintains their personal safety and their ethical integrity. When they are in doubt, they should seek the advice of adults whom they trust, such as their parents, rabbis, professors, or Jewish communal professionals.

JJ: What are your thoughts about Jewish students who support BDS (the global movement for a campaign of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel)?

KM: People have many reasons for coming to their beliefs. I try not to cast aspersions. But the BDS movement is a very dangerous crusade. It is not only an affront to basic academic values, it is also the embodiment of double standards and defamations aimed at the Jewish people. Some BDS advocates are blatant bigots. Others have unwittingly made common cause with groups that seek to harm the Jewish people. If any Jewish students are attracted to the false rhetoric of BDS, I would recommend that they become better educated on the subject. One place to start is Cary Nelson and Gabriel Brahm’s important new edited volume, “The Case Against Academic Boycotts of Israel.” Students should be able to find this book in their college library or order it at amazon. com.

JJ: What do you hope conference attendees get out of the conference?

KM: I want attendees to know that if they face problems on their campuses that they are not alone. We are here for them. I want them to leave with a better understanding of how they can succeed in difficult campus environments, how they can thrive, and what they can do if they face injustice. Too often, Jewish students find that their voices are unheard, that their experiences are disbelieved, and that the challenges they face are denied. I want them to leave feeling stronger and more empowered. I want them to understand what their options are and how they can have the best possible college experience. And if they should find that classmates who are not Jewish are facing other forms of discrimination, bias, or harassment, I want them to be able to use our tools to help these other groups as well. After all, we’re fighting to achieve justice for all.

Pictured at top: Kenneth Marcus, founder and director of the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, addressed the “Break the Hate” Summit at BU.