click here to jump to start of article
  • Torah Reading: Naso
Join Our Newsletter

Get latest articles and videos with Jewish inspiration and insights​

Save the Yale Anti-Semitism Institute

Save the Yale Anti-Semitism Institute

Is Yale caving into pressure from the Arab world?


Yale just killed the country’s best institute for the study of anti-Semitism. If Yale doesn’t want it, Washington should grab the institute before it goes anywhere else.

For the past five years, the Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Antisemitism has flourished in New Haven, Conn. On a small budget it has sponsored research, visiting fellowships, papers and presentations on the most abiding and lethal hatred mankind has ever known — the one that brought us the Holocaust and that is once again racing around the world.

A few institutes for the study of anti-Semitism have sprung up globally — a couple in Israel and some in Europe and North America. Yale’s is the first in the States and the first to be closed down.

This is, at first glance, strange. The quality and output of the Yale institute have been superb and wide-ranging. The institute has attracted scholars from around the world to study anti-Semitism and to present papers; has numerous governance committees, most of them composed of eminent Yale faculty; and has an international academic board of advisers — on which I serve — from other universities.

So why did Yale kill the institute?

The answer is simple. The institute held a three-day conference last August on “Global Antisemitism: A Crisis of Modernity.” More than a hundred invited scholars, almost all of them from universities and research institutes, delivered papers. Some spoke, inevitably, about the fastest-growing and most virulent manifestation of contemporary anti-Semitism — the anti-Semitism in the Arab/Muslim world, in which the tropes of classic European anti-Semitism (such as the allegations that Jews meet secretly to control the world, murder non-Jewish children to use their blood in Jewish rituals and spread disease to kill non-Jews) have been not only adopted but also embellished. Such eminent scholars as Bassam Tibi — a Syrian emigre, a distinguished professor at the University of Goettingen and a devout Muslim — spoke about anti-Semitism in that part of the world, as did other authorities. To be sure, some presenters expressed alarm and took an activist stance — as do some presenters at academic conferences on genocide, human rights, women’s studies, African American studies, Hispanic studies, gay and lesbian studies, and nuclear proliferation.

The conference provoked a firestorm. A Syrian American law student published a broadside in the Yale Daily News attacking the institute and the conference as fueling “anti-Arab bigotry and Islamophobia.” The Palestine Liberation Organization’s representative to the United States wrote to Yale’s president accusing the conference of demonizing Arabs — “who are Semites themselves” — and urging him to dissociate himself and Yale from the conference’s “extremism and hate-mongering.” The Internet lit up with attacks on the institute and Yale.

Yale administrators and faculty quickly turned on the institute. It was accused of being too critical of the Arab and Iranian anti-Semitism and of being racist and right-wing.

A requisite five-year review of the institute was held five months after the conference. Its director was told on June 1 that on July 31 the institute would be shut down and its staff fired. Yet the review committee’s report was kept secret and the explanation given was that the institute had not served “as a valued input to the research and teaching interests of some significant group of Yale faculty” and that “no core of faculty research or student interest has developed around the center or has emerged to direct its interests.”

The criticism was unfounded.  The institute’s faculty governance committee includes 13 Yale faculty members.  It has four faculty researchers; a faculty advisory committee consisting of 14 faculty members and two students; eight post-doctoral fellows; six graduate fellows; and 11 undergraduate interns.   It has launched the first international association for the study of anti-Semitism and has supervised undergraduate dissertations. Yale students have attended its seminars and courses.

Yale still could reverse course. It is a great university and capable of the greatness of admitting error. Actually, it doesn’t even have to admit error; it can save face by giving the institute time to correct any deficiencies it claims to have found.

But should Yale maintain its decision on closure, the institute should quickly be grabbed as a scholarly and policy gem by another university. A great university in Washington — George Washington, Georgetown, American, Maryland, Catholic — or other research institution, such as the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, would be an outstanding venue where scholars and policy-oriented audiences could hear the products of its vital contemporary focus. This would be a superb outcome to Yale’s unwise decision — second only to leaving the institute where it is and making it a fixture in Yale’s academic firmament.

This op-ed originally appeared in the Washington Post.

June 18, 2011

Give Tzedakah! Help create inspiring
articles, videos and blogs featuring timeless Jewish wisdom.
The opinions expressed in the comment section are the personal views of the commenters. Comments are moderated, so please keep it civil.

Visitor Comments: 38

(31) Robert Walton, July 6, 2011 8:04 AM

Yale listens better when its budget is "addressed".

Perhaps individual and corporporate donors could adjust their programs of benevolence to reflect their concerns with Yale's behavior? Yale is unranked on Hillel's 2009 list of 60 Universities with the Largest Jewish Population in North America. Our individual and corporate giving should reflect this as well.

(30) Anonymous, July 1, 2011 10:41 PM

what is it with this world that the minute an arab muslim says something, and what they say is always destructive, we jump to their tune..there isn't a place in this world where they are not causing trouble..not until they start bringing some good into this world should we pay them any heed..and we should keep them out our universities until they become mainstream..they are anti everything except for how they can destroy the world..always critical, never constructive..with that attitude why does anyone listen to them????

(29) Anonymous, June 25, 2011 6:57 PM

Nazi salute

I have a deep sense that the Nazi salute, is now being half raised globally, regardless of the origins. Yale University has behaved as would an elderly and deeply vulnerable isolated grandmother, whom none would care for, nor defend. I lament the lack of courage, where it is assumed it often times is encouraged - Knowledge, and higher learning. This gutless, soul-wrenching caving in to anti-semites, and those in the making, will come home to roost, and Yale, as many other "Germanic" institutions of yore, can only be compromised, degraded, and ultimately destroyed as a Privileged, Respected, and much sought-after institute of Higher learning. This Ivy league school, can only strangle itself on its poisonous buds, should it choose to give power to Anti-semites with boundless funds. It is deeply sad to witness the fall of such an iconic institution. I doubt that Yale will back-track, ego nowadays serves in lieu of Courage, Integrity, Honesty, Transparence, and the Just exercise of common sense, and impartiality. I hear the the echos of lamentation, uttered by distinguished integrity laden scholars, as they also witness this feckless cowardice, and fear of morally bankrupt individuals - the eventual demise of this institution, is a-comin, but a least, the relevance (seemingly) of its administrators will remain intact (amongst their own set).

(28) Jeff, June 25, 2011 4:01 AM

America and the Arab World

The question; Is Yale caving into pressure from the Arab world? It's sad to say that America is becoming what I call, HR Appropriate. This isn't the country I knew going up in the 60's and 70's. I don't see America having back-bone anymore. I want to get a bumper sticker that says, Benjamin Netanyahu for President.

(27) Anonymous, June 22, 2011 10:05 AM

Changing the template and narrative of the Shoah for nefarious purpose must be countered

Red flags of anti-Semitism have been waving for some time now on American university campuses. How to reach the Jewish children that get ensnared into the nets set up by communist revolutionary strategists, professors too long implanted in our institutions of learning. Further empowered by the advent of muslim politicization strategists against Israel - at what point is it to be considered as having reached critical mass? And further understanding attributing American context to this axis misses the point that such war will not go away unless we are fully apprised of its strategies and uproot its strategists from our campuses. And know which organizations in place legitimize war against the Jews in America and abroad.

See All Comments

Submit Your Comment:

  • Display my name?

  • Your email address is kept private. Our editor needs it in case we have a question about your comment.

  • * required field 2000
Submit Comment