Dear Attorney General,
We write to you from the StandWithUs Saidoff Legal Department, a division of StandWithUs, an international, nonprofit organization with the mission of educating about Israel and combating antisemitism. Since Hamas’s October 7th invasion—during which Hamas-led terrorists poured into Israel, slaughtered, raped, and tortured over 1,200 people, injured over 5,000 more, and abducted 240—antisemitic incidents in the U.S. have skyrocketed.
This is especially the case on college campuses, where we have received hundreds of requests for legal help in incidents involving physical assaults, criminal threats, false imprisonment, discrimination, and harassment against Jewish and Israeli students. University administrators often ignore or excuse such bigotry under various pretexts, including a distorted interpretation of the First Amendment and misidentifying such hate as “political speech.”
As Attorney General, you are the primary legal voice of your state. As such, we call upon you to exercise your authority and influence to combat this alarming trend in your state’s public institutions of higher learning—including public universities and public secondary schools.
As Virginia’s Attorney General has demonstrated in directives and actions, we urge you to instruct your state’s universities to take antisemitism seriously and to enforce applicable rules to prevent its normalization. Specifically, we request that your office take the following proactive steps to ensure Jewish and Israeli students may participate safely and fully in educational spaces:
Instruct universities in your state to enforce vigorously student codes of conduct and university policies, independent of and in addition to assisting law enforcement in investigating reports of criminal activity. This includes implementing time, place, and manner restrictions on demonstrations held on university property, and seriously investigating and penalizing students and student organizations for codes of conduct violations.
Remind universities of their First Amendment right to speak out against the scourge of antisemitism, as they likely have done in other instances of bigotry. Remind them also of their moral duty to oppose bigotry and to support students of all ethnic backgrounds, including Jewish and Israeli students. This includes apprising students of their rights and about mechanisms to report discrimination and harassment complaints, as well as ensuring that they have ready access to sufficient security and counseling services.
Issue clear guidelines on university policies to curb unlawful campus protests and specifically emphasize that there is no tolerance for language inciting violence. As Virginia’s Attorney General noted, the First Amendment does not protect speech that is directed to or likely to incite or produce imminent lawless action.
Hold demonstrators who commit crimes accountable, including, but not limited to, vandalism, assault, and harassment, by zealously prosecuting such crimes. Inform university presidents in your state that they must fully cooperate and assist with any investigation of such hate crimes that occur on their campus or in secondary schools. And ensure that universities comply with their reporting and timely warning obligations under the Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act.
Aid universities in the proper identification of antisemitism as opposed to political speech by directing universities to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of antisemitism (IHRA), which has already been formally adopted by 31 states, including the District of Columbia, and which is used by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights in the investigation of complaints of antisemitic discrimination under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. IHRA is a critical tool in investigating complaints of campus antisemitic discrimination and harassment. If your state has already adopted the IHRA definition, we suggest you reiterate its importance and applicability to university presidents in your state.
We further note that several state governors, including New York’s Governor Kathy Hochul and Virginia’s Governor Glenn Youngkin, have already established initiatives to combat antisemitism in their states’ school systems. Specifically:
We urge you to follow New York’s lead in informing state’s universities that their failure to address antisemitic activity on campus could be deemed a violation of the state’s human rights law and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which provides that any recipient of federal funds is responsible for keeping students free from a hostile environment based upon their ethnicity or national origin. This applies to public universities and K-12 public schools.
We also urge you to follow the lead of Virginia’s Attorney General, who created a special task force to address this urgent problem with the specific, concrete objectives of educating, monitoring, information-gathering, and coordination with law enforcement.
With the start of a new semester, it is our hope that you will take this opportunity to demonstrate leadership and moral clarity, and to convey that indifference to antisemitic bigotry has no place in your state.
If we can be of assistance in any of these matters, please do not hesitate to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for your prompt attention to this important matter.
StandWithUs Saidoff Legal Department
StandWithUs Saidoff Legal Department