Former Mitzvah Maker, Professor Alvin Rosenfeld, took on a recent Yale University decision to shut down the Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Antisemitism. Rosenfeld, who founded the Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism at Indiana University in 2010, addressed a letter of appeal to Yale University’s president and provost. The full text of the letter, which was signed by participants in the institute’s inaugural conference, appears below:
As scholars who recently participated in a major conference on antisemitism at Indiana University, we were astonished to learn of Yale’s decision to eliminate the Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Antisemitism (YIISA). Among North American universities, YIISA has been a pioneer in advancing research on contemporary manifestations of antisemitism. It has done much good work. The list of speakers it has hosted is diverse and includes many of the leading scholars in the field. Its publication program, while still young, already boasts several notable titles. The potential for YIISA to build on these attainments and achieve still more in the future is undeniable. What, then, explains Yale’s decision to suddenly terminate an institute with such a record?
While we are unfamiliar with the grounds for your decision, the immediate closure of YIISA strikes us as peremptory and unwise. Surely a way can be found to help YIISA continue its impressive record of accomplishments and, at the same time, help it remedy whatever problems your review may have identified.
At a time when antisemitism is once again a social reality of increasing concern, universities would do well to encourage the scholarly work of institutes like YIISA rather than shut them down. We urge you to reconsider your decision and thereby enable Yale University to remain a leader in studying one of the critical problems of contemporary culture. To do otherwise will deprive the scholarly community of an intellectual resource of high energy and proven effectiveness. Especially at this time of resurgent antisemitism, Yale’s surprising move to close YIISA sends precisely the wrong message.