Academics oppose Yale’s decision to close YIISA

This afternoon Prof. Alvin Rosenfeld from Indiana University sent me a letter he wrote to Yale’s President co-signed by dozens of academics from all over the world, expressing their opposition to the university’s decision to close YIISA.

In my column on Friday, I mistakenly wrote that YIISA was the only institute in a North American university dedicated to the study of anti-Semitism. As it turns out, there is another one at Indiana University run by Prof. Rosenfeld. I had heard of the center, but was under the impression that it was still in the planning phases. So sorry for the error and congratulations to Indiana University for doing the right thing. I think I’ll try to scrape up a copy of “Breaking Away,” to celebrate.

Before I give you the letter, I want to call your attention to a deeply depressing blog post by a recent Yale grad named Matthew Knee at Legal Insurrection about the atrocious behavior and politics of the Jewish students at Yale. I read this post on Friday and I still haven’t snapped out of the funk it put me into.

Here are a few representative passages but I urge you to read the entire entry:

   Those who point out that the PLO condemned a YIISA conference on global anti-Semitism fail to note that the Jewish community at Yale did not come to YIISA’s defense in any significant way. While I found many references to the controversy searching the Yale Daily News web site, I found no examples of the organized Yale Jewish community standing up for YIISA.

 

 

   I recall talking with other Jewish students about YIISA, including some who were directly involved. The complaints I heard were consistent. Yale students consider the study of anti-Semitism of the sort YIISA examined to be a “right wing” pursuit. They complained that YIISA was too focused on Europeans leftists, Israel-haters, and particularly, Muslims.

 

 

   This was unsurprising considering the far left nature of the Yale Jewish Community. While I was on campus, Yale Friends of Israel (YFI), Yale’s allegedly pro-Israel student organization, had so big a tent that one of their leaders told me, at the height of the controversy over “The Israel Lobby,” that even Walt and Mearshimer’s views should be welcomed as a form of pro-Israel viewpoint. This was met with approval by nearby YFI members.

 

 

Now here is the text of the letter with the signatories.

June 12, 2011

President Richard C. Levin

 

President’s Office

 

Yale University

 

PO BOX 208229

 

New Haven, CT  06520-8229

Professor Peter Salovey

 

Provost’s Office

 

Yale University

 

Warner House, Room 107

 

1 Hillhouse Avenue

 

New Haven, CT 06511

Dear President Levin, Dear Provost Salovey:

As scholars who recently participated in a major conference on antisemitism at Indiana University, we were astonished to learn of Yale’s decision to eliminate theYale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Antisemitism (YIISA). Among North American universities, YIISA has been a pioneer in advancing research on contemporary manifestations of antisemitism. It has done much good work. The list of speakers it has hosted is diverse and includes many of the leading scholars in the field. Its publication program, while still young, already boasts several notable titles. The potential for YIISA to build on these attainments and achieve still more in the future is undeniable. What, then, explains Yale’s decision to suddenly terminate an institute with such a record?

While we are unfamiliar with the grounds for your decision, the immediate closure of YIISA strikes us as peremptory and unwise. Surely a way can be found to help YIISA continue its impressive record of accomplishments and, at the same time, help it remedy whatever problems your review may have identified.

At a time when antisemitism is once again a social reality of increasing concern, universities would do well to encourage the scholarly work of institutes like YIISA rather than shut them down. We urge you to reconsider your decision and thereby enable Yale University to remain a leader in studying one of the critical problems of contemporary culture. To do otherwise will deprive the scholarly community of an intellectual resource of high energy and proven effectiveness.  Especially at this time of resurgent antisemitism, Yale’s surprising move to close YIISA sends precisely the wrong message.

Respectfully,

Alvin H. Rosenfeld

 

Professor of English and Jewish Studies

 

Irving M. Glazer Chair in Jewish Studies

 

Director, Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism

 

Indiana University

 

Bloomington, IN 47405

OTHER SIGNATORIES

Dina R. Spechler

 

Associate Professor of Political Science

 

Indiana University

 

Bloomington, IN 47405

R. Amy Elman

 

Professor

 

Chair, Political Science

 

Kalamazoo College

 

Kalamazoo, MI   49006    US

Kemal Silay

 

Professor of Central Eurasian Studies;

 

Ottoman and Modern Turkish Studies Chair;

 

Director, Turkish Studies Program;

 

Indiana University

 

Bloomington, IN 47405

Matthias Küntzel

 

Political Scientist and author

 

Hamburg, Germany

 

Research Associate of the Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Antisemitism at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Sidney Rosenfeld

 

Professor Emeritus of German Language & Literature

 

Oberlin College

 

Oberlin, OH

Rifat Bali

 

Publisher, Libra Books

 

Istanbul, Turkey

 

Research Fellow at Alberto Benveniste Center for Sephardic Studies and Culture (Paris)

Jamsheed K. Choksy

 

Professor of Iranian Studies, Central Eurasian Studies, History, India Studies, International Studies, Islamic Studies

 

Indiana University

 

Bloomington, IN 47405

 

Member, United States National Council on the Humanities

 

National Endowment for the Humanities

Kenneth L. Marcus

 

Executive Vice President and Director

 

The Anti-Semitism Initiative

 

Institute for Jewish & Community Research

 

3198 Fulton St., San Francisco, CA 94118

Paul Bogdanor

 

Independent scholar and author

 

London

 

England

Bernard Harrison

 

Emeritus E.E. Ericksen Professor of Philosophy, University of Utah

 

Emeritus Professor in the Faculty of Humanities, University of Sussex

Bruno Chaouat

 

Director, Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies ,

 

Associate Professor of French,

 

University of Minnesota

 

Minneapolis, MN

William I.Brustein,

 

Professor of Sociology, Political Science, and History

 

The Ohio State University

 

Columbus, Ohio

Catherine Chatterley

 

Founding Director

 

Canadian Institute for the Study of Antisemitism (CISA)

 

SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of History

 

University of Manitoba,

 

Canada

 

Stephen Katz

 

Professor, Borns Jewish Studies Program and the Dept. of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures

 

Indiana University

 

Bloomington, IN 47405

Emanuele Ottolenghi

 

Senior Fellow – Foundation for Defense  of Democracies

 

Washington, D.C.

 

Author

Dina Porat

 

Head, the Kantor Center for the Study of Contemporary European Jewry

 

Former Head, the Stephen Roth Institute

 

for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism and Racism

 

The Alfred P. Slaner Chair in Anti-Semitism and Racism incumbent

 

Tel-Aviv University, POB 39040, Ramat-Aviv

 

Tel-Aviv 69978, Israel

Ilan Avisar

 

Associate Professor

 

Film & TV Dept.

 

Tel Aviv University

Jean Axelrad Cahan

 

Senior Lecturer in Philosophy

 

Director

 

Norman and Bernice Harris Center for Judaic Studies

 

University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Elhanan Yakira

 

Professor, Department of Philosophy

 

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

 

Jerusalem

 

Israel

Balazs Berkovits

 

Independent scholar and author

 

Budapest

 

Hungary

Zvi Gitelman

 

Professor, Political Science

 

University of Michigan

 

Ann Arbor, Michigan

Andrew Sloin

 

Assistant Professor of History

 

Earlham College

 

Richmond, Indiana

Alejandro Baer

 

Assistant Professor of Sociology

 

Universität Bayreuth

 

Germany

Tammi Rossman-Benjamin

 

Lecturer in Hebrew and Jewish Studies

 

University of California Santa Cruz

 

Santa Cruz, CA

Anna Sommer Schneider

 

Research Assistant

 

Institute for the Study of Modern Israel

 

Emory University, Atlanta

Eirik Eiglad

 

Ph.D. candidate and author

 

History and Philosophy

 

University of Oslo

 

Oslo, Norway

Matthias Lehmann

 

Associate Professor of History and Jewish Studies

 

Indiana University

 

Bloomington, IN 47405

Paul Berman

 

Independent scholar

 

New York City

 

Author of  Flight of the Intellectuals and other books

 

Gunther Jikeli

 

International Institute Education and Research on Antisemitism,

 

London, UK

Dr. Szilvia Peremiczky

 

Director, Hungarian Jewish Museum, Budapest

 

Senior Lecturer, National Rabbinical Seminary and Jewish Studies University, Budapest

 

Senior Lecturer, Eötvös Lóránd University of Arts and Sciences, Budapest