Yale announced the creation of a new institute for the study of anti-Semitism this week, becoming the first university in North America to establish a center dedicated to research on this topic.
The Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Antisemitism will feature a series of seminars and lectures by leading intellectuals from varied fields of study, including authors, historians and theologians. The center, which is based in Yale’s Institution for Social and Policy Studies, started last year as a series of seminars but was institutionalized this year after a number of participants gave positive feedback, program director Charles Small said.
“The idea of taking what have been seminars and transforming them into an initiative was because the response to the seminars was overwhelming,” ISPS Director Donald Green said. “I think it will produce original and compelling analyses of [anti-Semitism] that will go beyond the United States.”
Small, who also started the Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism and Policy, said he was inspired to start a center in North America by a series of international conferences on he attended on anti-Semitism.
“I wanted to build on the momentum … and bring that to North America,” Small said.
Through the forum, Small said he hopes to create a forum for scholars and researchers to discuss the controversial topic.
“I really hope to create a vibrant space for people from different perspectives and political views,” Small said. “I think it’s important for scholars and students to engage in a comprehensive way. … It will attract not only students, but also leading scholars to contribute and to research.”
The program will also allow members of the Yale community to exchange ideas and views on the topic, Green said.
“It provides a focus for intellectual contacts between schools and departments that might not otherwise have any commonality,” Green said. “[They will] come together to debate about this phenomenon. Whenever we have an ambient interest in a subject, that’s a great opportunity.”
Some students said they are looking forward to getting involved with the initiative.
“We are excited about it, and we think it’s a very good thing,” said Sarah Kellner ’08, co-president of Hillel. “People often don’t realize … how big of a problem [anti-Semitism] can be.”
But other students expressed their disappointment that the center was focused exclusively on anti-Semitism instead of addressing prejudice and discrimination against other groups.
“In general, I think it’s important to address racism,” Gerardo Giacoman ’09 said. “There might be some other types of racism that might be overlooked. A holistic approach might be more appropriate.”
Both Green and Small applauded Yale for starting the institute.
“The fact that Yale is taking the leadership role is very important,” Small said. “It shows the openness of Yale.”
The first speaker at the institute will be James Carroll, a fellow at Harvard University who will speak on Sept. 28. He will discuss the relationship between Catholicism and Judaism, a topic based on one of his books, “Constantine’s Sword: The Church and the Jews — A History.”