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Combating Antisemitism: Professor Alvin Rosenfeld Travels to Berlin

March 24, 2016


During this past Spring Break, Alvin Rosenfeld, Director of the Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism, Irving M. Glazer Chair in Jewish Studies, and affiliated faculty of the Institute for European Studies, traveled to Berlin to present four talks on European contemporary antisemitism. One of the highlights of these talks was the International Parliamentary Conference on Combating Antisemitism, March 13-15 at the Bundestag in Berlin, attended by parliamentarians and other government officials from thirty-five countries. Angela Merkel gave the keynote address. Before leaving for Berlin, Rosenfeld told me that he believed the conference would produce a draft of a resolution against antisemitism that Parliamentarians could take back to their home countries. He participated in the Conference’s first panel entitled “Setting the Scene”, where alongside three other scholars he informed Parliamentarians about the present character of antisemitism. During his panel, Rosenfeld focused on “street-level” antisemitism, meaning antisemitism that effects the day to day life of European Jews, and identified two different forms of this antisemitism: Anti-Zionist Antisemitism and antisemitism that arises from radicalized elements of Muslim Communities. Some of the other sessions, entitled “Internet Hate and Possible European Approaches”, “Combatting Antisemitism in Muslim communities”, and “Legal Responses to Antisemitism” served to further educate parliamentarians on contemporary antisemitism and what should be included in the resolution. As for Rosenfeld, before his departure he shared with me his hope that the resolution will contain not only legislation, but educational programs and plans to work with European communal, political, and religious organizations.

Before leaving for Berlin, Rosenfeld told me that it’s very challenging to get the current pulse of antisemitism when living in the U.S., and that he was looking forward to getting a more accurate reading of the current climate in Europe. One of his events in Berlin was a meeting with German scholars at the IU Europe Gateway Office to discuss current developments in antisemitism. The Gateway also hosted a talk by Rosenfeld on “The Perils of Rising Antisemitism in Europe and Elsewhere”, which examined the intersection of antisemitism and antizionism. Opened in November 2015, the brand new IU Europe Gateway office aims to serve as a home base for IU research and educational opportunities in Europe. Rosenfeld sees ample opportunity to utilize this Gateway office beyond this trip to further the study and awareness of contemporary antisemitism. In June or July of this year, Günther Jikeli, another professor in the Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism, will host a talk about his latest book, Muslim Antisemitism in Europe, also at the Gateway office.

Before his trip, Rosenfeld told me that every scholar/intellectual hopes that their work will matter, and that in the case of his work on contemporary antisemitism, he sees the potential to make a substantial impact. From reports of anti-Semitic violence such as the attack on the Hyper Cacher supermarket in Paris to headlines about the BDS Movement against Israel (a topic Rosenfeld addressed in another one of his Berlin talks), antisemitism and its relationship with current political trends remains a pressing issue. Rosenfeld’s trip represents the importance of encouraging ongoing dialogue about these issues, and is a reminder that antisemitism is a political as well as a social issue.

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