Speaker series to examine antisemitism, Islamophobia

Leading academics from around the country will join Cornell experts in a semester-long series, “Antisemitism and Islamophobia Examined,” in addition to a number of other talks exploring these critical issues.

The series kicks off Feb. 12 with “Antisemitism, the Israel-Hamas War, and Distorting the Law of Genocide: A Perfect Storm,” a talk by Menachem Z. Rosensaft, adjunct professor of law at Cornell Law School and general counsel emeritus, World Jewish Congress. The talk is scheduled for 5 p.m. in 401 Warren Hall.

The series is sponsored by the Office of the Provost; the College of Arts and Sciences; the Department of Near Eastern Studies; the Jewish Studies Program; the Religious Studies Program; the Center for Racial Justice and Equitable Futures; the Clarke Initiative for Law and Development in the Middle East at Cornell Law School; Comparative Muslim Societies; Critical Ottoman + Post-Ottoman Studies; the Einhorn Center for Community Engagement; the Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies; and the Society for the Humanities.

In addition to that series, other speakers scheduled to come to Cornell include: Ethan Katz, associate professor of history and faculty director of the Center for Jewish Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, March 26; Dov Waxman, the Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundation Chair in Israel Studies and director of the Nazarian Center for Israel Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles (date TBD); and Robert Williams, executive director of the USC Shoah Foundation, University of Southern California (date TBD).

“We’ve seen increases in both antisemitism and Islamophobia across the country, including here on campus. So these lectures are meant to bring more light to this area, and to use our mission as an academic institution to learn from experts in this area,” said Avery August, Ph.D. ’94, deputy provost and chair of the Presidential Advisors on Diversity and Equity, and professor of microbiology and immunology in the College of Veterinary Medicine.

Rosensaft, born to Holocaust survivors in 1948 in the displaced persons camp of Bergen-Belsen, is founding chairman of the International Network of Children of Jewish Holocaust Survivors; chair of the Advisory Council of the Foundation for Memorial Sites in Lower Saxony, Germany; and a past president of the Park Avenue Synagogue in New York City. He is the author of “Poems Born in Bergen-Belsen” (2021).

“I am thankful for the collaborative approach from leadership within the Department of Near Eastern Studies and the Jewish Studies Program to bring to campus leading scholars with varying perspectives,” said Rachel Bean, interim dean of A&S and the Jacob Gould Schurman Professor of Astronomy. “The ‘Antisemitism and Islamophobia Examined’ series reflects a key part of our mission, both in education and in research, to work across disciplines and diverse perspectives to better our understanding of humanity.”

“There has been a concerning increase in antisemitic and Islamophobic acts around the country, and unfortunately, on the Cornell campus as well,” said Deborah Starr, professor and chair of the Department of Near Eastern Studies (A&S). “Ross Brann, the Milton R. Konvitz Professor of Judeo-Islamic Studies, outlined the entwined histories of antisemitism, Islamophobia and racism in an eCornell lecture he gave last semester. The lectures in the series this semester will explore the history of these forms of prejudice, examine the impact on Jews and Muslims in America today, and map the legal landscape for addressing these issues.”

Events in the series include:

March 18: “Out of Time: On the Rise and Resilience of Anti-Muslim Bigotry Today,” featuring Moustafa Bayoumi, journalist and professor of English at Brooklyn College, City University of New York; 5 p.m., 401 Warren Hall.

March 28: “Racializing Religion: Islamophobia, Antisemitism and Palestine,” featuring Sahar Aziz, professor of law and Chancellor’s Social Justice Scholar at Rutgers University Law School; 5 p.m., Room G10, Biotechnology Building.

April 8: “Beyond Sympathy and Antisemitism:  The International Community and the Creation of the State of Israel, 1947-1949,” featuring Derek Penslar, the William Lee Frost Professor of Jewish History at Harvard University; 5 p.m., Room G10, Biotechnology Building.

On March 13, the Department of Near Eastern Studies will also host “Academic Freedom and Middle East Scholars after Oct. 7,” in collaboration with the Freedom of Expression theme year, featuring scholars Shibley Telhami, the Anwar Sadat Professor for Peace and Development at the University of Maryland; and Marc Lynch, professor of political science and international affairs and director of the Project on Middle East Political Science at George Washington University; 5-6:30 p.m. in Goldwin Smith Hall, Room 132.

“We are excited to be able to welcome some of the country’s leading experts on these topics to further promote a safe and inclusive environment for all the members of our community,” said Jason Mohktarian, the Herbert and Stephanie Neuman Associate Professor in Hebrew and Jewish Literature, and director of the Jewish Studies Program (A&S).

Kathy Hovis, a writer for the College of Arts and Sciences, contributed.

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Lindsey Knewstub