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Dr. Catherine Chatterley

Keeping Up with CISA: A Winnipeg Jewish Review Exclusive Interview with Dr. Catherine Chatterley

By Rhonda Spivak, March 11, 2019

“New challenges face the Jewish world today and resurgent antisemitism, including physical threats and violence, is one of the them. I am under no illusion that CISA, or any other organization, can solve the problem of antisemitism; however, it must be studied, identified, and marked out for censure. And that we will do.” 

Dr. Catherine Chatterley, Canadian Institute for the Study of Antisemitism (CISA)


Rhonda Spivak: Catherine, do you think there is currently an actual rise in antisemitism today as some people are suggesting?

Catherine Chatterley: Yes. In 2018 there was a significant rise in antisemitic violence. In France, there was a 74% increase in antisemitic incidents (from 311 to 541), including the torture and murder of an 85 year old Holocaust survivor who was stabbed and set on fire, and rumoured to also have been raped (Mireille Knoll). Germany has just reported a 10 year record high of 1,646 antisemitic acts in 2018, in which 43 people were wounded. In the UK, 1,652 antisemitic incidents were recorded with 123 classified as violent (the total number is a 16% increase from the previous year). Canada reports that 2017 was the second consecutive year in which record numbers were reached: 1,752 antisemitic incidents (16 violent acts; 327 acts of vandalism; and 1409 acts of harassment). And, of course, the murder of 11 Jews (and wounding of another six) at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh on October 27, 2018 was the deadliest act of antisemitic violence in American history.

There is growing agreement that the main sources of antisemitic violence in the Western world today are on the far-right, the far-left, and within Islamic supremacist circles. Unfortunately, it takes an upsurge in physical violence against Jews for people (including Jews) to recognize the threatening nature of antisemitism. However, few people seem to be willing to connect the escalating rhetorical assault on Jews, Judaism, and the Jewish state since the new millennium to this increase in physical violence.

Rhonda Spivak: Does CISA’s journal, Antisemitism Studies, address these current concerns or does it only deal with the past?

Catherine Chatterley: Each issue includes five articles and five to eight book reviews. The journal is a scholarly production and it deals with all aspects of the phenomenon of antisemitism, all time periods, including today. We have published several studies on contemporary developments in Eastern Europe, France, and Germany, and on refugee attitudes toward Jews. There is growing concern about antisemitism in Europe, particularly in Western Europe and in the UK.

In my introduction to our last issue, I addressed a very serious concern—sexual violence against Jewish women and girls as an aspect of antisemitic violence more generally, and the reluctance to cover it in the media or address it in scholarship:

“On March 23, 2018, 85 year old Mireille Knoll was stabbed and set on fire in her Paris apartment by two twenty-something Muslim assailants, one of whom was her neighbor. There are persistent rumors she was also raped by this man (Yacine Mihoub was arrested for sexual assault on the 12 year old daughter of Mrs. Knoll’s nurse), and yet news reports fail to address this question consistently, which is then replicated in all other discussion of the crime (including scholarship) and does not find its way into antisemitism statistics either. On December 3, 2014, a 19 year old Jewish woman was raped during a robbery of her apartment, shared with her 21 year old boyfriend, by one of three Muslim assailants. Susanna Feldman, a 14 year old Jewish teen from Mainz, was raped and murdered by a 20 year old Iraqi migrant near Wiesbaden, Germany (who is also accused of raping an 11 year old girl there). She went missing May 22, 2018 and her body was discovered on June 6, 2018 in a wooded area near train tracks.”

I said that I hoped that “we, as scholars of antisemitism, will not replicate in 2018 . . . the postwar research on the Holocaust, which repressed the fact that sexual violence against Jewish women and girls was a factor in the Nazi antisemitic system of oppression and extermination. . . . The first book to deal with this subject matter was published only eight years ago, 65 years after the end of the war (Sonia Hedgepath and Rochelle Saidel, eds., Sexual Violence Against Jewish Women During the Holocaust [Waltham, MA: Brandeis University Press, 2010]). Shulamit Reinharz introduces the collection by addressing the repression of this subject matter:

Rape is almost always a component of war and terror. The Holocaust was no exception. Women who regrettably underwent this experience can, perhaps, take some comfort in knowing that their misfortune is finally being recognized. [The authors] are to be congratulated for beginning the exploration of this untold, horrific chapter in the history of men and women, Jews and antisemites. It is a story of sexual and religious oppression and their intersection. It is a story that, after sixty-five years, is finally being told (x).”

The effects of ignoring this aspect of antisemitism “are entirely negative, and it behooves scholars to investigate the relationship between misogyny and antisemitism, to describe the crimes committed against all Jews accurately and completely . . .”

I also discussed "a related problem that remains unacknowledged, and therefore understudied in our field, is the same intersection of antisemitism and misogyny faced by female scholars of antisemitism, anti-antisemitism activists, politicians, and any other woman who confronts antisemitism in public. This includes Jewish and non-Jewish women alike.

See, for example, Maggie Astor, “For Female Candidates, Harassment and Threats Come Every Day,” New York Times (August 24, 2018).

Also, see the experiences of Joanna White and John Mann, Luciana Berger, and Ruth Smeeth: “Labour MPs Give Raw Accounts of Facing Threats, Abuse, as British Parliament Debates Antisemitism,” The Algemeiner (April 17, 2018).

It seems to be impossible for antisemites to resist resorting to violent sexist, pornographic language in their attacks on women, especially via social media. This is an important and disturbing problem that deserves our attention—it must be integrated into our study of antisemitism, especially its contemporary manifestations."


Journal Website:


Rhonda Spivak: In November 2018, you were invited to Vienna by the Chancellor of Austria, Sebastian Kurz, to attend his conference on Antisemitism. What was discussed at the conference?

Catherine Chatterley: The Austrian Chancellor appears to be taking antisemitism and anti-Zionism seriously. Austria is chairing the European Council, representing all 28 heads of state in the European Union. This body determines policy for the EU and in December 2018 Chancellor Kurz did indeed present the report on antisemitism that was produced at our scholarly conference in February 2018 to heads of state at the European Council meeting. The Chancellor’s conference released the report, which is a book of guidelines and suggestions for governments on how to try to combat antisemitism and anti-Zionism, which is a problem in Europe and a growing menace to Jews living on the continent. This catalogue of policies was produced out of an international conference held at the University of Vienna in February 2018 and it was published by the European Jewish Congress just before November 2018.

Here is a link to the catalogue for your readers.

Rhonda Spivak: The Canadian Institute for the Study of Antisemitism (CISA) is having more of an international impact these days. Can you tell our readers about CISA’s current work?

Catherine Chatterley: CISA is still based in Winnipeg because I am based here but our work and its impact is now international. We have a new academic journal, as you know, and have helped to create a new international scholarly association for the study of antisemitism. Both of these initiatives, their participants and activities, are international in scope.

Rhonda Spivak: CISA recently announced that Antisemitism Studies is available through Project Muse. What is Project Muse and why is it important that CISA’s journal be accepted into its premium collection?

Catherine Chatterley: After only two years of operation, Antisemitism Studies has been accepted into the Premium Collection of the Project MUSE database system. Project MUSE—headquartered at Johns Hopkins University Press—is a prestigious online collection of authoritative humanities and social sciences journals from more than two hundred of the world’s most distinguished university presses and scholarly societies.

Project MUSE is a subscription-based service that allows Antisemitism Studies to be accessible to students and faculty in over 3,000 universities and colleges worldwide, including the top tier institutions: Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Princeton, Chicago, Columbia, MIT, McGill, U. Toronto, UBC, Oxford, Cambridge, U. London, Edinburgh, Sorbonne, and all the leading European universities, Hebrew U., and Tel Aviv.

When the children and grandchildren of your readers are researching their essays online at university they will be using Project MUSE and their search results on antisemitism and related subjects will include articles and book reviews from Antisemitism Studies. This is the kind of impact CISA wants—reaching thousands of students and faculty at the best universities in the world.

Antisemitism Studies will build a solid base of scholarly knowledge about antisemitism and anti-Zionism, which will be indispensable to students and faculty, but also to governments and lawmakers as they wrestle with how to address the resurgence of antisemitism worldwide and in Europe most alarmingly.


Rhonda Spivak: And what will the new scholarly association do?

Catherine Chatterley: In addition to the catalogue of policies, the University of Vienna Conference in February 2018, An End to Antisemitism, unanimously approved the proposal to form a new international academic society, to be called the International Organization for Antisemitism Research (IOAR). This society is devoted to the interdisciplinary study of the phenomenon of antisemitism throughout its history and in its various manifestations as well as to scholarly and scientific research aimed at developing strategies to fight antisemitism.

Our mandate is to encourage scholarly interchange and research to deepen our understanding of this phenomenon; to hold conferences and foster scholarship; and to promote the interchange of ideas between academic researchers, policymakers, and legislators.

Professor Jehuda Reinharz, former President of Brandeis University, is our President and members of the founding board are: Dr. Catherine Chatterley (CISA/University of Manitoba), Prof. Armin Lange (University of Vienna), Prof. Dina Porat (Tel Aviv University), Prof. Alvin Rosenfeld (Indiana University), Prof. Lawrence H. Schiffman (New York University), Prof. Monika Schwarz-Friesel (Technical University of Berlin), and Mark Weitzman (Simon Wiesenthal Center).


Rhonda Spivak: Can you tell us about this year’s Shindleman Family Lecture?

Catherine Chatterley: On Monday, May 6, 2019, David Harris will be speaking on his understanding of rising antisemitism from an insider’s perspective based on his front line experience of fighting antisemitism for over three decades.

Shimon Peres described David Harris as the “foreign minister of the Jewish people.” Mr. Harris has led the American Jewish Committee (AJC) as its CEO since 1990, and he works to counter antisemitism in all its guises by calling on governments to act and by organizing coalitions with other faith and ethnic groups to forge a united front against hatred.

He really is one of the most articulate and informed advocates for the Jewish people on the international stage. After his lecture, we will have a discussion and a question and answer period, followed by refreshments.

To buy tickets to CISA’s lecture, click here:


Rhonda Spivak: Are there any upcoming CISA programs that our readers should know about?

Catherine Chatterley: In the future, we will be offering courses online and will launch a channel on an online platform. Tim Beyak has taught a second course for us in Winnipeg on Human Rights.

CISA is part of a team (Deborah Schnitzer, Catherine Chatterley, Marni Hellner, and Rhonda Spivak) putting on an exhibit entitled “Discovering Israel’s Dayan Women: A Creative and Curatorial Journey with Rhonda Spivak” that will be held at the Mennonite Heritage Gallery of the Canadian Mennonite University from May 8 to June 20, 2020.

Focusing on the peace activism of three generations of Israeli women from the noted Moshe Dayan Family, the exhibit includes remarkable artifacts from the Dayan family exploring themes of Arab-Jewish dialogue, co-existence, and reconciliation, relevant to contemporary human rights perspectives, and a collection of paintings by Rhonda Spivak inspired by the Dayan Family.


Rhonda Spivak: CISA has a growing endowment fund at the Jewish Foundation of Manitoba. Can people specify what their gift funds if they so choose?

Catherine Chatterley: Yes, we are very grateful for the support we have received from donors over the last nine years. Our endowment fund at the Jewish Foundation of Manitoba is growing and we welcome new support, which will continue to guarantee the continuation of CISA’s work promoting scholarship and education on the specific problem of antisemitism, in perpetuity.

Donors to the endowment fund are welcome to direct their gift to general operating costs or to a specific area of our work, including:

1. Antisemitism Studies

The journal is the leading international forum for new scholarship on the problem of antisemitism. It is published by Indiana University Press (IUP) and is edited by Dr. Catherine Chatterley and sponsored by CISA. We do all the administrative work for the journal, all the scholarly editing and copyediting, and assist with marketing and promotion. Sales, marketing and promotion, printing and distribution are covered by IUP. The journal is now available to over 3,000 students and faculty at hundreds of universities and colleges through electronic databases and print subscriptions. The journal is published every April and October and has been very well received. The editorial board is stellar and includes the leading scholars of antisemitism worldwide.

2. Scholarly Conferences  

CISA’s director is a co-founder and board member of the International Organization for Antisemitism Research, founded at the University of Vienna in 2018, the first international scholarly organization for those who study antisemitism. CISA will be co-sponsoring conferences and lectures with the new association in cities around the world.


3. Online Courses & Seminars

CISA’s mandate is to create and promote scholarship and education on the specific subject of antisemitism. To that end, we have created and taught seven courses over the last six years. Our new project is to develop a YouTube channel and offer our courses and seminars online to a much wider international audience.

For more information, please contact CISA ([email protected]) or the Jewish Foundation of Manitoba.







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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.