By: Jonathan Levin  | 

Congressman Adriano Espaillat on Campus Antisemitism, Congress and YU

The following is a transcript of an interview between The Commentator and Congressman Adriano Espaillat, whose district, NY-13, includes Yeshiva University’s Wilf Campus. 

The Commentator: You have been outspoken in defense of students facing antisemitism on campus. A recent bill of yours, the “Combating Hate Across Campus Act,” has received support from universities around NYC, including Columbia and YU, which are both in the district. Can you please tell us more about it and why you think it will help?

Congressman Espaillat: Hate crimes have been on the rise for many years. According to the FBI’s 2022 Hate Crimes Statistic report, race, religion, and LGBTQ-based hate crimes have all significantly increased across the country. The Anti-Defamation League also reported a rise in antisemitic attacks in the months following Hamas’s October 7th attack, and unfortunately, college campuses have not been immune to this trend.

Under the Jeanne Clery Act, colleges and universities are already required to submit a report on hate crimes to the Department of Education. My bill,  the “Combating Hate Across Campus Act” would amend the Clery Act to require universities to report the nature of the hate crimes (assault, vandalism, etc.) as well as the specific motivation of hate crimes, disaggregated by subcategories including antisemitism, islamophobia, homophobia, racism, etc. Collecting this additional information would provide colleges and the U.S. Department of Education a more accurate assessment of the specific needs of underserved student populations in order to devote the resources needed to keep students safe on campus.

The Commentator: You have spoken many times about the relationship between the Jewish and Dominican communities in the Heights. How does this relationship inform your leadership positions as deputy chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and co-chair of the Latino Jewish Caucus?

Congressman Espaillat: I believe one of the reasons that I was asked to be a co-lead for the Latino Jewish Caucus is because, for decades now, the Jewish and Latino populations of Washington Heights have worked hand in hand to strengthen our community, in one of the best and most shining examples of a successful cross-cultural partnership that you will see in America.

As targeted minorities, we are at our most powerful when we stand united to amplify one another’s voices to fight injustice in our community as well as around our world.

The Commentator: Many students volunteer in the broader community through START Science, where students from YU lead science enrichment activities for elementary and middle school students and perform experiments with them, as well as Project Feed NYC, where YU students volunteer to distribute food to those in need.

Do you think this is the best way for students to engage in the wider community in the district? Are there other areas or needs of the community that you feel students should focus their attention on?

Congressman Espaillat: Community service at all levels is valuable and can change lives. These organizations are great outlets for Yeshiva students to serve the community in which they live and are a part of. My congressional office works closely with various organizations in the district, and I recommend students explore nonprofits and community-based organizations where they can get involved and make a difference. 

The Commentator: Given all the instability facing our country at the moment, what is one piece of advice you have to offer to YU students?

Congressman Espaillat: Our students of today are bright shining stars who are making an impact on our community today as well as for the future. My advice to each of you is to know that you are not alone in your efforts and know that I am advocating in Congress for Jewish students — and all students — to ensure you can learn in academic environments while feeling protected to help you thrive. Never lose sight of who you are. No one can take away your history, family, religion, or character. Stay true to yourself and always keep the faith.


Photo Caption: Adriano Espaillat at a solidarity event on Wilf Campus in support of Israel in October.

Photo Credit: Yeshiva University