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Havard Antisemitism Task Force Co-Chair Resigns

'I will continue to support efforts to tackle antisemitism at Harvard in any way I can from my faculty position’

Havard Antisemitism Task Force Co-Chair Resigns

The co-chair of an antisemitism task force at Harvard University has unexpectedly resigned.

Raffaella Sadun, a professor at Harvard Business School, has left the position less than four months after the school announced the task force formation. Harvard was widely criticized after 33 student organizations co-signed a letter blaming Israel for the outbreak of violence following the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks. 

The university’s interim president Alan Garber announced on Feb. 25 that Sadun has opted to “refocus her efforts on her research, teaching and administrative responsibilities.” Garber told CNN that the professor’s “insights and passion for this work have helped shape the mandate for the task force and how it can best productively advance the important work ahead.”

Sadun was tapped to lead the antisemitism task force with Jewish history professor Derek J. Penslar, who has been accused of minimizing antisemitism on campus, with New York Congresswoman Elise Stefanik and billionaire Bill Ackman both voicing their disapproval. 

Derek Penslar is clearly not an antisemite. He is a conscientious, if eccentric, scholar of Jewish history who has no sympathy for Jew-erasing fantasies,” wrote David Mikics for Tablet Mag on Jan. 30. “Yet Penslar is still clearly the wrong choice to co-chair Harvard’s antisemitism task force because he is an apologist for people who do in fact hate Jews and would like to make Israel disappear by violent means.”

Still, hundreds of people signed a petition signaling their support for Penslar. 

A pathbreaking scholar who has written extensively about the social and political histories of modern Jewish society and the State of Israel as well as questions related to antisemitism, Prof. Penslar is perfectly suited to help lead Harvard’s new Task Force on Combating Antisemitism at this critical moment in Jewish history,” they noted in a statement. 

Former Harvard President Claudine Gay announced the task force’s formation during a speech at a Harvard Hillel Shabbat dinner during the school’s family weekend in early November.

The past few weeks have been full of darkness,” said Gay. “Here in the U.S., we are witnessing a surge in anti-Jewish incidents and rhetoric across the nation — and on our own campus. The ancient specter of antisemitism, that persistent and corrosive hatred, has returned with renewed force.”

“As we grapple with this resurgence of bigotry, I want to make one thing absolutely clear: Antisemitism has no place at Harvard,” she added.

Gay has since resigned as president after six months on the job following a backlash over remarks she made to Congress about antisemitism on campus and allegations of plagiarism.  

Garber is hoping that the task force will dissipate tensions between students who hold different cultural and ideological views on campus.

“We must do much more to bridge the fissures that have weakened our sense of community, and the task forces, which have the full support of the University, will be critical to our success,” the interim president said in a statement published by The Harvard Gazette

Sadun did not give any additional reasons for her decision to not take part in the antisemitism task force.

“I am grateful to have had the opportunity to help advance the vital work to combat antisemitism and believe that President Garber has assembled an excellent task force,” she said, per The Harvard Crimson. “I will continue to support efforts to tackle antisemitism at Harvard in any way I can from my faculty position.”

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