Academics oppose Yale’s decision to close YIISA

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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.


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


Dina R. Spechler


Associate Professor of Political Science


Indiana University


Bloomington, IN 47405

R. Amy Elman




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





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,




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.



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




Norman and Bernice Harris Center for Judaic Studies


University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Elhanan Yakira


Professor, Department of Philosophy


The Hebrew University of Jerusalem





Balazs Berkovits


Independent scholar and author





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



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












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