The Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, in conjunction with Hasbara Fellowships, launched the JIGSAW Initiative on Friday, which the two civil rights organizations herald as pilot programs to train law students in combatting and preventing resurgent anti-Semitism. The Brandeis Center has been working with legal experts to develop the JIGSAW Initiative curriculum for months and has begun accepting applications.
"As the tragic and horrific events in Pittsburgh made abundantly clear, anti-Semitism is escalating at a frightening rate in the U.S.," said attorney Alyza D. Lewin on Friday. As president and general counsel of the center, Lewin said, "We must reverse this rising tide of anti-Semitism and ethnic racism, and there is no substitute for legal action. By properly training a select team of law students to work with undergraduates and utilize specific legal tools and strategy, we can begin to take the offensive in this battle."
According to the Brandeis Center, the latest reporting by the FBI showed that in America there were more incidents of anti-Semitism than all other religious hate crimes combined. The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has reported that anti-Semitic incidents rose 57 percent across the nation last year, and 89 percent on college campuses alone. A Trinity College-Brandeis Center nationwide survey found that 54 percent of Jewish college students experienced anti-Semitism in 2014. And only a year later, a Brandeis University study found that figure had spiked to nearly 75 percent.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, hate groups and extremists are rising throughout the country. The ADL reports that white supremacists are targeting college campuses like never before, and the AMCHA Initiative found that incidents driven by Israel-related anti-Semitism were significantly more likely to contribute to a hostile campus for Jewish students than the classic/white supremacist form. Additionally, the whole country was shocked by the murder of 11 worshippers attending Shabbat services at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, at the hands of a declared anti-Jewish shooter.
JIGSAW stands for Justice Initiative Guiding Student Activists Worldwide and its motto is "Achieving Justice Piece by Piece." Brandeis Center lawyers will train selected law students to utilize legal tools and expertise to combat both classic/white supremacist and anti-Israel anti-Semitism. According to the Brandeis Center, the students will focus on combatting anti-Semitic incidents on campus by using university policies, as well as state and federal law. After they graduate, former JIGSAW Fellows will have the knowledge and personal expertise to address incidents nationwide.
JIGSAW Fellows will engage in both joint training with the Hasbara Fellows as well as a separate legal-based curriculum specifically developed by Brandeis Center attorneys. Topics to be covered include how to recognize both classic and anti-Israel anti-Semitism; utilize internal student government policies to combat anti-Semitism; understand university bias and discrimination complaint procedures; understand Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and how to file complaints for violations of Title VI with the Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights; understand and utilize protections provided by the First Amendment; be conversant in the state penal codes that apply to event disruptions and other criminal activity including assault and vandalism; and understand international law principles as they relate to Israel and BDS.
As part of the program, JIGSAW Fellows will participate in a trip to Israel, along with Hasbara Fellowships, where they will visit significant sites and meet Israeli government officials, Palestinian representatives, academics, journalists, and representatives from humanitarian organizations.
"In the pilot year, we plan to train 12 law students, and then to grow the program substantially each year, increasing to up to 50 the second year and 100 students after that," said Lewin, who is an experienced attorney and civil rights advocate. "Our goal is to select students who are dispersed geographically across the country, so that each law student can cover a geographic region, and to eventually expand the program to other countries, such as Canada and the U.K.”
Reacting to the announcement about JIGSAW, acclaimed author and investigative journalist Edwin Black said in an interview, “JIGSAW, it appears, will change everything in the fight against BDS and anti-Jewish hate mongering and violence on campus. This converts a well-intentioned movement into a well-oiled and highly effective legal fighting force.” Black is the author of a number of books, including “IBM and the Holocaust” and “War Against the Weak.”
Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.