I have followed the heated exchange in NJJN between columnist Martin J. Raffel and Morton Klein and Susan B. Tuchman of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA). In their responses to Raffel’s columns dealing with the reopening of the Office of Civil Rights’ Title VI investigation into the situation facing Jewish students at Rutgers University in 2011, Klein and Tuchman argue that the Jewish Council for Public Affairs’ (JCPA) 2012 resolution on Title VI was “harmful” and undermined the interests of Jewish students on college campuses (Letters to the Editor, “Title VI a right, not last resort,” Nov. 29).
This resolution was adopted before I became the professional head of JCPA in 2016. But having now read the resolution carefully in the wake of the Raffel-ZOA exchange, I am in full agreement with the resolution’s sensible approach. The resolution was overwhelming approved by JCPA’s national and local member agencies (JCRCs), including by the Community Relations Committee of Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest New Jersey, whose then-director was quoted in 2012 in NJJN.
She said, “Our position was that we wanted to strengthen the resolution, but in the end we supported the one that passed … because we felt Title VI should be used as a tool if and when appropriate. We also feel that it should not be misused or overused. It should only be used in the most extreme circumstances.”
The JCPA believes the resolution strikes just the right balance between, on the one hand, the need to ameliorate hostile campus environments for Jewish students and, on the other, the imperative to respect free speech and academic freedom.
How precisely to use Title VI as leverage with university administrators is a legitimate subject for debate. There’s a good argument that launching cases that cannot possibly win hurts, not helps, the cause.
ZOA is welcome to take issue with JCPA’s resolution and Raffel’s perspectives. It is regrettable, however, that Klein and Tuchman felt the need to attack Raffel, a respected Jewish professional who served the JCPA and the Jewish community relations field for almost three decades before his retirement. He’s clearly a lover of Zion who has the best interest of the Jewish people in mind. What, pray tell, is so hard about being civil?
President and CEO
Jewish Council for Public Affairs