Indiana U. parley tackles ‘post-Holocaust anti-Semitism’

International conference led by anti-Semitism scholar Prof. Alvin Rosenfeld will also discuss questions about anti-Jewish hostility within Israel.

Alvin Rosenfeld 88 248 (photo credit: Amanda Borschel-Dan)
Alvin Rosenfeld 88 248
(photo credit: Amanda Borschel-Dan)
Prof. Alvin Rosenfeld, a leading scholar on modern anti-Semitism at Indiana University, will preside over an international conference on Sunday at the school to examine post-Holocaust anti- Semitism.
Rosenfeld told The Jerusalem Post ahead of the opening that, “We’re living at a time of heightened anti-Semitism, but today’s anti-Semitism is not well understood. Scholars have given a great deal of attention to earlier forms of Christian religious anti-Semitism and to Nazi-style racial anti-Semitism, culminating in the Holocaust.
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“But, with some exceptions, not many scholars have paid serious attention to post-Holocaust anti-Semitism.
My conference emphatically shifts attention to the latter,” he said.
A who’s who of the academic world devoted to the study of Jew-hatred – and loathing of Israel – will attend the three-day conference on April 3-5, entitled “Resurgent Anti-Semitism: Global Perspectives,” at the Indiana Memorial Union.
In 2009, Rosenfeld launched the Institute for the Study of Contemporary anti-Semitism at Indiana University Bloomington. A total of 35 scholars, crisscrossing 13 countries, plan to deliver talks at this week’s conference.
Elhanan Yakira, professor of philosophy at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and fellow colleague Robert Wistrich, director of Hebrew University’s Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of anti-Semitism – and the author of “A Lethal Obsession: Anti- Semitism from Antiquity to the Global Jihad” – are slated to speak.
Asked about the manifestation of post-Shoah anti-Semitism, Rosenfeld told the Post, “...what we’re facing today doesn’t necessarily resemble the anti- Semitism of the past. It doesn’t have its deepest roots in traditional Christian hostility to Judaism and the Jews, or to more modern racial suspicion, denigration and hatred of Jews. The passions that generated these earlier forms of anti-Jewish animus are still alive, though, and have awakened newer forms of anti-Jewish hostility, directed especially to the Jewish State and its supporters.”
He continued that “Much of the hatred we are facing today, in other words, is largely political and ideological in character. So lots of people don’t see it for what it is, or pass it off as inconsequential or demote it as being merely ‘criticism of Israel.”’ With Rosenfeld’s 2006 essay, “Progressive Jewish Thought and the New Anti- Semitism,” he garnered intense international media attention, as well as a lengthy New York Times article in 2007 devoted to his ideas.
Rosenfeld’s essay was a scathing criticism of mainly Anglo-American Jews who invoke anti-Israel and anti-Semitic laced language to dehumanize and delegitimize Israel. His essay broke new ground in the US – largely because he shifted the focus to fringe groups of anti-Zionist Jews, and the role they play in branding Israel as a pariah state on university campuses, in the major media and in academic works.
He told the Post, “Anyone who sets out to understand today’s anti-Semitism – if he is honest – needs to look critically at the role that certain Jews, including Israeli Jews [and ex-Israeli Jews], play in feeding a climate of growing hatred against Jews, Judaism and the Jewish State. Needless to say, it’s a sensitive subject, but also an inescapable one.
“As you know, I’ve written about it, and so have a number of the other conference participants – including some of the four Israeli scholars who are conference speakers. As painful as it is to deal with, we will not forgo attention to Jewish contributions to contemporary anti- Semitism. It won’t be the conference’s main focus, nor should it be, but it will be included in more than one paper.”
Rosenfeld noted that, “To the best of my knowledge, this is only the second time in recent years that a major research conference on contemporary anti-Semitism will have taken place on an American university campus. (The first one was held at Yale several months ago.) “We will look at resurgent anti-Semitism in global perspective, examining the phenomenon in many European countries, as well as in Turkey, Iran and parts of the Muslim world. Unusually, we will also raise troubling, but necessary, questions about forms of anti-Jewish hostility that show up within Israel itself.”
Indiana University President Michael A. McRobbie said in a statement before the start of the conference that, “Acts of anti-Semitic hatred – here or anywhere in the world – must be a matter of deep concern to all people because criminal acts of hatred against any group threaten the freedom of all people.
“In a diverse and increasingly global society, we absolutely depend on tolerance and respect for all people. We cannot afford to ignore the lessons drawn from the serious and informed study of present-day anti-Semitism and its deep connections with centuries-old traditions of suspicion and hatred.
“Professor Rosenfeld and the Institute for the Study of Contemporary Anti- Semitism are performing an invaluable service through their international leadership in this timely study,” McRobbie concluded.
According to Indiana University, McRobbie will welcome participants at a pre-conference dinner, which will also include a talk by Hannah Rosenthal, special envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism with the US State Department.
Rosenfeld told the Post that plans are in place to publish the scholarly essays from the conference as a book.