YPSA to award grants

Beginning this spring, Yalies interested in the study of anti-Semitism will be eligible for funding from the Yale Program for the Study of Antisemitism.

As a part of its mission to foster scholarship of anti-Semitism on campus, YPSA will award grants this April to approximately five students and five faculty members. The grants, funded by the Salo W. and Jeannette M. Baron Foundation, will range from $500 to $2,500 for students and will amount to about $3,000 for faculty. Students and faculty must apply for the grants by March 1, and program director Maurice Samuels said the grant recipients will become integrated members of YPSA.

“One of the core missions of YPSA is to promote scholarship,” said Samuels, who is also the director of graduate studies for the French Department. “We feel that the quality of Yale’s student and faculty research really has something to offer.”

YPSA was founded last June after the controversial termination of the Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Antisemitism, which administrators deemed too politically oriented for an academic environment. Provost Peter Salovey told the News in June that YPSA would focus on reviving the scholarly study of anti-Semitism.

The new grants are a natural extension of YPSA’s commitment to “serious scholarly interest” in the field of anti-Semitism, Samuels said, adding that YPSA’s ability to promote scholarship differentiates it from an advocacy group. Since its establishment, YPSA has also hosted panels and lectures on topics ranging from Holocaust denial to the Israeli-Palestenian conflict, and Samuels said the organization hopes to bring visiting professors to campus in the 2012-’13 school year.

Samuels said projects eligible for funding will range from trips abroad to research conducted using Yale’s own archives. Grant recipients will be expected to attend all YPSA events in the 2012-’13 academic year, Samuels said, and will be required to present their findings at a YPSA colloquium.

Rabbi James Ponet ’68 said he believes that studying anti-Semitism can better scholarly understanding of other prejudices such as racism and xenophobia.

“Antisemitism has resulted in terrible collective persecutions,” Ponet said. “If we can understand the dynamics of what happened and why it happened, we might be able to intervene to help other hatreds and prejudices that are operative in the world now.”

Although YPSA grant applications are not due for several weeks, Samuels said six students have already expressed interest. Samuels said no faculty members have directly approached him so far, adding that he emailed YPSA-affiliated faculty about the grants this week.

Sam Gardenswartz ’13, co-president of Yale Hillel, said he included an announcement about the grant in Hillel’s weekly newsletter. Gardenswartz said he hopes that YPSA will make it easier for Yalies to study anti-Semitism.

Uriel Epshtein ’14, who is considering applying for a grant, said he thinks YPSA is helping students by offering grants, noting that obtaining sufficient funding is often an obstacle for undergraduates who want to pursue independent research. Epshtein added that he feels anti-Semitism is an important area of study.

“It’s important to put modern anti-Semitism into context and not ignore it,” Epshtein said. “It has not gone away, and to combat it, we must understand it.”

YPSA’s next event is a panel titled “Theorizing the Study of Anti-Semitism,” which is slated for Feb. 16.

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