June 21st, 2011 | Uncategorized

Yale announces Yale Program for the Study of Antisemitism

The Yale Program for the Study of Antisemitism is being billed as the replacement for the outgoing Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Antisemitism.

On Sunday Provost Peter Salovey announced in an email that Maurice Samuels, the Director of Graduate Studies in the French department and an expert on Jews in France, would be director of the new Yale Program for the Study of Antisemitism. The new program, YPSA, will hope to attract more interest by focusing more on scholarship and teaching, and less on advocacy. Meanwhile, YIISA executive director and founder Charles Small said in an email that Yale’s administration had not liked the Initiative’s willingness to be controversial.

“I am hopeful that this program will produce major scholarship on the vitally important subject of antisemitism,” Salovey wrote.

Yale decided to discontinue the Yale Institute for the Interdisciplinary Study of Antisemitism earlier this month after an internal review found that it was failing to attract Yale faculty and students or publish papers. This decision sparked criticism of Yale from Jewish groups including the Anti-Defamation League, which termed the closing of the center a victory for antisemitic forces.

“As we all know, there was a loud outpouring of reaction on the part of students, faculty and alumni around the world,” said Slifka Center Rabbi James Ponet ’68 in an email Friday evening. Ponet’s email promised a “reconceived YIISA.”

Charles Small, Executive Director and Founder of YIISA, sent an email criticizing the Yale Administration’s “precipitous” decision to close YIISA Monday. He blamed differing visions of how to study antisemitism.

“It became evident that YIISA and Yale University have different visions and approaches to the study of antisemitism,” Small wrote. Both Yale and YIISA believe in publishing high quality work in academic journals, Small said. In his view, this was something YIISA scholars were doing at a rapid pace, but A lack of articles produced by YIISA was cited by the administration in its decision to close the initiative.

The real difference of opinion between Yale and YIISA, Small said, is that YIISA believes its mission is to speak out against contemporary antisemitism, not just study it.

This mission can be “controversial,” Small said. He described the purpose of a true scholar as being to “shed light where there is darkness.”

Small went on to mention the controversial conference hosted by YIISA last August. This conference, “Global Antisemitism: A Crisis of Modernity,” was criticized by several op-eds in the News for being Islamophobic (read more: here, here and here).

The pieces called for Yale to disassociate itself with racism by closing YIISA.

An op-ed in the Washington Post drew a connection between the uproar over the conference and Yale’s decision to shutter YIISA, but Yale has maintained that the decision to discontinue YIISA was based purely on academic value.

“The review committee determined that YIISA had not stimulated or supported sufficient faculty research or courses for students to warrant its continuance,” Salovey wrote in his email.

Samuels said in an email to the News that after the administration’s decision to close YIISA, a number of faculty had met with University president Richard Levin and Salovey to ask that the administration support a new antisemitism program if YIISA could not be continued.

They expressed their support, Samuels said, and YPSA was created with Samuels as director. “I also look forward to work with academics that will be associated with the new Yale Program [for the Study of] Antisemitism to be constituted,” Small said.”Especially with my esteemed colleague Maurice Samuels.”

Small made it clear, however, that he might be leaving Yale. YIISA is in contact with several other academic institutions which it might relocate to, he wrote.

YPSA will be housed at the Whitney Humanities Center.

Correction: June 22, 2011

An earlier version of this article misstated the name of the Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Antisemitism.