On October 30th and 31st, 2023, the US Department of Education visited New York City to meet with higher education leaders at the only Orthodox Jewish university in the country and convene educators, community leaders, and elected officials around preventing and addressing antisemitism in PK-12 schools. These conversations, taking place three weeks after the Hamas attacks in Israel, highlighted the pain that many Jewish students and educators are navigating and the urgency of addressing the sharp increase in antisemitism amid the subsequent Israel-Hamas conflict.
On Monday, October 30th, Katy Joseph, Deputy Director of the U.S. Department of Education’s Center for Faith-Based & Neighborhood Partnerships and Kalila Winters, Senior Advisor for the Office of the Secretary, visited Yeshiva University to learn about campus safety considerations for the only Orthodox Jewish institution of higher education in the country. Katy Joseph and Kalila Winters facilitated a roundtable with University administration leaders and students around the impact of the Israel-Hamas conflict on students’ ability to learn, increased safety measures across the university’s four campuses and the role of federal government in countering antisemitism in higher education. During the roundtable, Patrick Gallagher, Vice President of Administrative Services and Chief Administrative Services Officer at Yeshiva University mentioned that the University is taking additional measures to ensure students feel safe on campus and navigating the surrounding areas, including increased personnel to escort students to off campus housing and physical investments to further enclose the central campus in Upper Manhattan. Students highlighted initiatives they launched since October 7th to counter the rise in antisemitism and support friends and loved ones directly impacted by the conflict.
Leaders of Yeshiva University’s undergraduate and graduate programs emphasized the value of providing space for students to learn about the conflict outside of their studies as well as mental health support and religious counseling for those in need. Through external-facing programs like the Care Café, the university is fostering relationships with the broader community. For instance, on November 14, 2023, the Care Café hosted a virtual interfaith forum with Dr. Que English, Director of the Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships at the U.S. Department and Health and Human Services.
On Tuesday, October 31st, the U.S. Department of Education joined United Jewish Appeal Federation of New York (UJA Federation) for a special convening of federal, state, and city leaders focused on fostering inclusive learning environments for Jewish students and those of all religious, spiritual, and secular identities. The UJA Federation is the largest local philanthropy in the world whose mission is to “care for Jews everywhere and New Yorkers of all backgrounds, respond to crises close to home and far away, and shape our Jewish future.”
The first part of the convening highlighted the release of the White House’s National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism and the U.S. Department of Education’s implementation under our Antisemitism Awareness Campaign. Roberto Rodriguez, Assistant Secretary of the Department’s Office of Planning, Evaluation, and Policy Development, Shelley Greenspan, White House Liaison to the American Jewish Community, and Deputy Director Joseph provided remarks. Following the remarks, Deputy Director Joseph facilitated a panel discussion with Assistant Secretary Rodriguez and Liaison Greenspan to dive deeper into the Administration’s initiatives to engage Jewish communities across the country and ensure that all students can thrive.
For the second part of the program, UJA hosted state and city leaders as well as a practitioner panel highlighting effective strategies for countering antisemitism at the school and classroom level. New York State Deputy Secretary of Education Maria Fernandez and NYC Chancellor of Education David C. Banks strongly condemned the rise in antisemitism and related forms of bias in PK-12 schools and emphasized the key role that educators and administrators play in setting community norms.