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Jewish Groups Sue CA University for 'Longstanding Unchecked Antisemitism'

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The University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley) is facing a lawsuit filed by two Jewish organizations over allegations that "longstanding unchecked antisemitism" has spread on the school's campus, including its law school. 

The 37-page complaint by the nonprofit Louis D. Brandeis Center, and the Jewish Americans for Fairness in Education (JAFE), asserts UC Berkeley administrators have long ignored the problem of antisemitism on campus, including recent on-campus displays of hatred, harassment, and physical violence against Jews following Hamas' Oct. 7 terror massacre in Israel.

"Court intervention is now needed to protect students and faculty to end this anti-Semitic discrimination and harassment, which violates University policy, federal civil rights laws, and the U.S. Constitution," the complaint said. 

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slider img 2The lawsuit alleges antisemitism has been allowed to take root and grow at the UC Berkeley School of Law. For over a year, no fewer than 23 student law groups have been enacting and enforcing anti-Jewish policies, including forcing Jewish students to deny Zionism or be denied the same rights and opportunities enjoyed by other students, the complaint said.  

It cites examples of the policies enacted to discriminate against and exclude Jewish students, faculty, and scholars, including:

  • To be a member of Women of Berkeley Law, the Queer Caucus at Berkeley, or the Asian Pacific American Law Students Association, Jewish students must accede to the groups' support of the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement, (BDS) which seeks to dismantle the modern state of Israel. 
  • In order to volunteer to provide pro bono legal services through a number of Berkeley Law Legal Services organizations, Jewish students must undergo a "Palestine 101" training program that alleges the illegitimacy of the State of Israel. 
  • And to speak to any of these student organizations, invited speakers must first repudiate Zionism under a bylaw that prohibits speakers who hold Zionist views. 

The complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in San Francisco is among the first against a major university since the Israel-Hamas war began which triggered protests on college and university campuses across the country. 

CBN News has reached out to UC Berkeley for comment. In an emailed statement, Dan Mogulof, a spokesperson for the university said, "While we appreciate the concerns expressed by the Brandeis Center, UC Berkeley believes the claims made in the lawsuit are not consistent with the First Amendment of the Constitution, or with the facts of what is actually happening on our campus. The university has long been committed to confronting antisemitism, and to supporting the needs and interests of its Jewish students, faculty, and staff. That commitment was strengthened in 2015, when the university established the Chancellor's Committee on Jewish Student Life, and again in 2019 when a groundbreaking Antisemitism Education Initiative was launched on the campus." 

"We do understand how upsetting and frightening some of the demonstrations have been for Jewish students, and the university is responding to their impact. We are offering counseling support, arranging academic adjustments for impacted students when possible, and have issued clear statements about the campus's position," he said. 

"We reject completely any claim that reports of harassment or discrimination filed by Jewish students are treated differently than others. We have asked for evidence of this claim….and so far nothing has been presented. We have assured students that every single claim will be responded to," the university's spokesperson said. 

Mogulof also included a statement from Berkeley Law School Dean Erwin Chemerinsky.

"The complaint filed by the Brandeis Center paints a picture of the Law School that is stunningly inaccurate and that ignores the First Amendment.  For example, student organizations have the First Amendment right to choose their speakers, including based on their viewpoint.  Although there is much that the campus can and does do to create an inclusive learning environment, it cannot stop speech even if it is offensive," Chemerinsky said. 

Small Jewish Group Prevails Against Sanctions & Surveillance by Beverly Hills Officials

Meanwhile, officials with the City of Beverly Hills have withdrawn their sanctions against a Jewish rabbi for hosting religious meetings in his own home. 

The city had issued a "Notice of Violation" to Rabbi Levi Illulian in June, prohibiting all religious activity with non-residents at his home, even threatening him with civil and criminal proceedings for hosting regular prayer meetings for his family, neighbors, and friends. 

According to the First Liberty Institute, city officials had been investigating Rabbi Illulian's religious activities at his home since March. They allegedly used increasingly invasive means, including surveilling individuals and cars coming and going from the home and flying a drone over his home.  

The nonprofit religious rights law firm and the law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP announced Monday the city had withdrawn its notices after the law firms' attorneys sent two letters to city officials urging them to withdraw the notices and to cease its surveillance of Illulian's home. 

"In light of what is happening to the Jewish community around the world, we need to be vigilant in protecting their religious liberty rights and safety here in the United States," First Liberty Institute Counsel Ryan Gardner said in a press release. "First Liberty is here to do just that."

Elizabeth Kiernan of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher said, "We are grateful that the city recognizes that Rabbi Illulian has a constitutional right to engage in religious exercise at his home with family or friends, free from government burden and interference."

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About The Author

Steve Warren is a senior multimedia producer for CBN News. Warren has worked in the news departments of television stations and cable networks across the country. In addition, he also worked as a producer-director in television production and on-air promotion. A Civil War historian, he authored the book The Second Battle of Cabin Creek: Brilliant Victory. It was the companion book to the television documentary titled Last Raid at Cabin Creek currently streaming on Amazon Prime. He holds an M.A. in Journalism from the University of Oklahoma and a B.A. in Communication from the University of