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Dr Charles Small, founder and director of the now defunct Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Antisemitism
photo by Rhonda Spivak

Yale's latest gift to antisemitism

By ABBY WISSE SCHACHTER, June 6, 2011 originally posted at

[Editor's Note: Yale University has closed the Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Antisemitism [YIISA], a move that has generated much criticism from the Jewish world.  The importance of this decision for Winnipeg's Jewish Community is significant and ought not to be overlooked. Prior to the closing of this institute at Yale, there were  seven institutes in the academic world focused specifically on dealing with antisemitism. One of them is right here in Winnipeg, the Canadian Institute for the Study of Anti-Semitism [CISA], whose founding  director is Dr. Catherine Chatterley (She has contributed pieces to this  website.) With the closing of  the Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Antisemitism, CISA is now only one of six institutes of its kind in the world.  There were seven;  now there are six. We are very lucky to have CISA in our city.  All the more reason that we in Winnipeg ought to  make sure that CISA thrives.  With Yale's recent decision, the need for CISA has unfortunately just gone up.

On a personal note, to  Dr. Charles Small, the founder and director of YIISA  whom  I had the pleasure of meeting when I was last in Washington (where I took the photo of him that you see here)-I wish you only good things in the future. I join with many others in  believing that Yale University made the wrong decision. ]


by Abby Wise Schachter, June 6, 2011

[Reprinted with permission]

Yale University last week killed the Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Antisemitism -- the only program of its kind in the country, an academically stellar one-stop anti-Semitism research shop. Worse, it almost certainly did so because YIISA refused to ignore the most virulent, genocidal and common form of Jew-hatred today: Muslim anti-Semitism.

Citing an official review by a faculty committee that it refuses to identify, Yale will shut down the program at the end of next month. The university's top flack, Director of Strategic Communications Charles "Robin" Hogen, wrote an e-mail claiming that YIISA had failed a key test: It was supposed to "serve the research and teaching interests of some significant group of Yale faculty and . . . be sustained by the creative energy of a critical mass of Yale faculty."

Funny, last year, at YIISA's hugely successful inaugural conference on global anti-Semitism, Yale Deputy Provost Frances Rosenbluth said just the opposite, noting that YIISA was "guided by an outstanding group of scholars from all over the university representing many different disciplines," including professors of history, sociology, comparative languages, psychiatry, economics and political science.

Actually, Hogen's e-mail itself contradicts Yale's stated excuse: He notes that "the steering committee did express continued support for the faculty reading group on anti-Semitism." Plus, "institutional support will remain for the group of faculty who wish to continue their scholarly exploration of this important subject."

Which is it -- no faculty interested in studying anti-Semitism, or lots of faculty interest in studying anti-Semitism?

It apparently depends on which anti-Semitism. Christian anti-Semitism is fine; political Jew-hatred, like communist or fascist anti-Semitism, no problem. But get anywhere near Muslim or Middle Eastern anti-Semitism, as presenters at YIISA's conference did last year, and you've crossed the line.

Yale certainly got an earful after the conference. The PLO representative in America scolded the school's president, Richard Levin, complaining of the attention paid to anti-Semitism among Palestinians and Muslims.

"It's shocking that a respected institution like Yale would give a platform to these right-wing extremists and their odious views," PLO "Ambassador" Maen Rashid Areikat wrote. "I urge you to publicly dissociate yourself and Yale University from the anti-Arab extremism and hate-mongering that were on display during this conference."

Other attacks came from left-wing bloggers and anti-Israel bigots, as well as one Yale law student who complained about the conference's potential dangers.

Citing the supposed "dangerous landscape on which American Muslims now dwell" to complain about alleged "anti-Muslim bigotry disseminated under Yale's banner of credibility," Yaman Saleh insisted that "the university cannot preach tolerance and inclusion while simultaneously also providing a haven for bigoted ideas about Muslims and Arabs that often form the basis for Islamophobic sentiment in this country."

Funny, there wasn't a peep about bigoted ideas presented under "Yale's banner of credibility" a year earlier, when a lecturer at Yale's new Jackson Center for Global Affairs took her graduate students to New York to visit with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Ahmadinejad explained to the students that there is no hard scientific proof that the Holocaust happened.

Neither the lecturer nor the center faced much criticism about meeting with a dictator just a few months after he'd murdered, tortured and terrorized his own citizens to hijack an election.

Yale says that every new research center is reviewed within five years of inception, though wouldn't (couldn't?) name one it had closed. Nor can YIISA appeal the university's decision.

Some suggest that Yale feels it can act with impunity because, earlier this spring, one of YIISA's most powerful backers died; without his money and influence, the school can rid itself of a politically inconvenient nuisance. Alumni might want to keep this in mind the next time Yale hits them up for a donation.

Editor's note:  The Anti-Defamation League has criticised Yale's decision:

The Anti-Defamation League’s national director, Abraham Foxman, says the decision “leaves the impression that the anti-Jewish forces in the world achieved a significant victory.”

In comments reported Wednesday by The New Haven Register, Foxman says the university should have tried to rectify any problems rather than closing the program in July after five years.


For more criticism of the decision go to :

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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.