The Forward 50

Ken Marcus

Activism

Ken Marcus

The Forward 50

With the Israel debate roiling college campuses around America, there has been no shortage of hand-wringing from the organized Jewish community about the welfare of Jewish students. Ken Marcus has taken a different approach.

A former staff director at the U.S. Department of Education, Marcus, 46, has emerged as a vocal proponent of using federal civil rights law to combat campus anti-Semitism in the context of the Israel debate.

In 2011, he created the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, a research organization based in Washington, D.C., to “advance the civil and human rights of the Jewish people and promote justice for all.” The Center is a clearinghouse for information about Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color or national origin. In 2010, the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights effectively extended the law to protect Jews.

In his previous role at the Institute for Jewish and Community Research, Marcus filed a high-profile Title VI complaint against Barnard College in 2011, alleging that a faculty member had “steered” a student away from taking a class from professor known for his sharp criticisms of Israel. The case was tossed out by the Office for Civil Rights.

It remains to be seen whether Title VI will prove to be an effective tool for countering campus anti-Semitism with regard to the Israel debate. But if Marcus has any say in it, we may witness a new era of Jewish advocacy.


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