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Multiple New York Hillel Organizations File Federal Complaint Over Ignored Campus Jew-Hatred

At Sarah Lawrence College (SLC) in New York, it is “safe to be Jewish as long as you are openly anti-Israel,” according to a new civil rights complaint alleging antisemitic browbeating, intimidation, and discrimination throughout campus and in the school’s diversity office.

Filed with the US Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) this week by Hillels of Westchester and Arnold & Porter LLP, the complaint describes dozens of alleged incidents of anti-Jewish hatred which administrators either declined to address or had directly initiated, thereby violating Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. Title VI prohibits discrimination in programs and activities that receive federal funding.

“Sarah Lawrence created a hostile environment for Jewish students through years of action and inaction — after more than 15 years of documented pleas for the college to support all facets of its Jewish community, we’ve reached a breaking point,” Hillels of Westchester executive director Rachel Klein said in a press release announcing the legal action. “We are making this formal complaint to ensure the college improves so all future students can safely immerse in the college experience, and we hope the administration takes immediate, sustainable action.”

Sarah Lawrence College did not respond to The Algemeiner‘s request for comment.

Anti-Zionist students at Sarah Lawrence College threaten to kill Jews or kill themselves in front of them, the complaint alleges. Diversity officers assigned as advisers to the campus group Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) are in charge of processing complaints of antisemitism, the lawsuit continues, and when Jews are killed in Israel, those officers promote anti-Zionist events promising to debunk the so-called “mainstream narrative” about the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

The school’s alleged disregard for the welfare of Jewish students was revealed in the days and weeks after Hamas’ slaughter of Israeli civilians on Oct. 7, the complaint explains. No sooner had the tragedy occurred than Briana Martin — SLC director of diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) — called on students to ignore Jewish suffering by attending on Oct. 9 “Hour of Solidarity with Palestine,” an event co-sponsored by SJP. While promoting the event, Martin invited Jewish students and Hillel members via email to attend it — a gesture, the complaint says, that the SLC Jewish community found “offensive and dehumanizing.” They soon discovered that in addition to being the school’s chief DEI administrator, Martin is SJP’s adviser, acting as the club’s advocate and liaison.

“Having been sent even before Israel had initiated any military response, the email’s message to ‘understand the mainstream narrative’ could only be interpreted to support SJP’s narrative that Hamas was justified in slaughtering Israeli civilians,” the complaint argues. “That such an obviously hostile and dehumanizing message would be delivered to SLC’s Jewish students by the director of the very office charged with protecting SLC’s minority Jewish student community sent a clear message that the SLC administration has chosen sides and that it would not protect SLC’s Jewish students.”

Martin’s conduct went beyond vocally supporting SJP’s extremist politics. She also allegedly refused to investigate anti-Zionist students accused of antisemitic harassment. When Sammy Tweedy, a Jewish student who had been in Israel on Oct. 7, reported to Martin that an anti-Zionist student threatened to beat him up and said he had “the blood of Gaza on your hands” and should have been murdered by Hamas, Martin would only agree to filing a no-contact order against the student. This wasn’t the first time that Martin declined to investigate or meaningfully punish antisemitic conduct, the complaint continues. Tweedy had filed several previous complaints to which Martin has never responded to this day. At one point, she put off Tweedy by telling him she needed “space and time to move forward.”

As an office, DEIB was complicit in silencing complaints of antisemitism, according to the lawsuit. In November, the office persuaded a Jewish student who wanted to report a professor for antisemitism not to do so, telling them it would not be in their best interest. Long before Oct. 7, former DEIB assistant director Ronald Benion was also allegedly dilatory in responding to antisemitism, as well as in failing to provide sufficient kosher dining options, despite being assigned as SLC Hillel’s representative. SLC President Christie Judd has allegedly avoided addressing these issues and declined to meet with Hillels of Westchester to discuss the school’s efforts to protect the civil rights of Jewish students.

“The hostile learning environment, the lack of support from the administration, and the recurring acts of brazen antisemitism that Jewish and pro-Israel students at Sarah Lawrence College have experienced is alarming and unacceptable,” Hillel International CEO and president Adam Lehman said in Wednesday’s press release. “This is clearly a systemic problem, and it requires a serious, systemic solution from the Sarah Lawrence administration. Nothing short of significant culture change will suffice.”