Paula Hyman: Yale Jewish Studies Professor, Prominent feminist, historian passes away

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JEWISH ACADEMIC & UNIVERSITY NEWS

Paula Hyman, Jewish feminist and scholar, dies

Source: JTA, 12-15-11

Noted Jewish feminist Paula Hyman, who served as the first female dean of the Seminary College of Jewish Studies at the Jewish Theological Seminary, has died.

Hyman died Thursday at the age of 65.

She was the Lucy Moses Professor of Modern Jewish History at Yale University, a position she held for 25 years, including more than a decade as chair of the Jewish studies program.

Hyman served as dean of the Seminary College of Jewish Studies from 1981 to 1986, as well as an associate professor of history at the Jewish Theological Seminary. Prior to that she was an assistant professor of history at Columbia University for seven years; she received a doctorate from the school in 1975.

She published extensively on topics including Jewish gender issues, modern European and American Jewish history, and Jewish women’s history as well as feminism. She wrote several books on French Jewry.

Hyman was a founder in 1971 of Ezrat Nashim, a group of Conservative and some Orthodox Jewish women who lobbied extensively for changes in the Conservative movement’s attitude toward women, including ordaining them as rabbis and inclusion in a minyan.

She was awarded a National Jewish Book Award in 1999 and received honorary degrees from The Jewish Theological Seminary and Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.

Hyman regularly spent time in Israel, lecturing in Hebrew and English at the Hebrew University, Tel Aviv University and Ben-Gurion University.

Paula Hyman: Yale Jewish Studies Professor, Prominent feminist, historian passes away

Source: Yale Daily News, 12-16-11

Paula Hyman, a noted feminist and historian and former chair of the of the program in Judaic Studies, passed away Thursday morning after a battle with breast cancer. She was 65

photo

Yale

Paula Hyman.

A founder of Ezrat Nashim, a group of Conservative Jewish women who advocate for changes in the religion’s treatment of women, Hyman was a prominent scholar of Judaism and a symbol of Jewish feminism. At Yale and in New Haven, she served as a mentor and friend to many, Rabbi James Ponet ’68 wrote in a Thursday email to affiliates of the Joseph Slifka Center for Jewish Life at Yale.

“[Her] capacity for loyal friendship, her love of the Jewish people writ large and her passionate engagement in numerous Jewish communities provide us all with an enduring model of what makes a life worth living, and what it means to live a committed Jewish life,” Ponet said.

Throughout her illness, Hyman remained a prominent figure both on and off campus. She stayed involved with the Westville Jewish community and often spoke at community events, said Lauren Gottlieb GRD ’16, who studied with Hyman.

Born in Boston in September 1946 to Sydney and Ida Tatelman, Hyman was the oldest of three sisters. After attending both Radcliffe College and the Hebrew Teachers College of Boston, Hyman went on to receive a doctorate from Columbia University.

During her time in New York, she emerged as a leader in the Jewish-American feminist movement, breaking glass ceilings in the field of Judaic Studies and advocating for women’s rights within Conservative Judaism. In 1971, she helped found Ezrat Nashim, which successfully pressured the Conservative movement to include women in the minyan (the quorum of adults required for some Jewish rituals), allow women to participate equally in prayer leadership and begin ordaining women as rabbis.

Hyman came to Yale in 1986 as the Lucy Moses Professor of Modern Jewish History. She served as the chair of the Judaic Studies program for 13 years, and remained active despite her illness, advising six of 15 current graduate students. Hyman published extensively on topics including the history of Jewish women, Jewish feminism and the French Jewry and served as president of the American Academy for Jewish Research. She was an inspiration both as a scholar and as an embodiment of the ideas she studied, Judaic Studies professor Eliyahu Stern said.

“I learned so much from her, not only about Jewish history, but also about how to move in the world as a woman scholar,” Gottlieb said. “She taught by example and allowed us to see her not only a professor, but as a proud mother and grandmother, community activist and Jewish leader.”

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Jeffrey Herf: Why Did Yale Close, Then Open, a Center for Studying Anti-Semitism?

Source: TNR, 7-5-11
Developments at Yale University in recent weeks concerning the scholarly study of anti-Semitism have aroused broad attention. In early June, Yale’s Provost Peter Salovey accepted the recommendations of a faculty committee to close the Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Antisemitism (YIISA). On June 19, however, following an outcry over the news, Salovey announced that a new center, the Yale Program for the Study of Antisemitism (YPSA) would be established. The university’s Whitney Humanities has agreed to sponsor it, and Professor Maurice Samuels, whose scholarship focuses on the presentation of Jews in French literature, will convene this reconstituted center.

For those of us who are familiar with YIISA and valued its engagement with scholarship about anti-Semitism not only in Europe but around the world, the decision to close YIISA was disturbing. We hope that the reconstituted program at Yale will incorporate the research concerns and ferment that YIISA fostered and place these at times unpopular efforts on a sound scholarly foundation befitting a great university. The stakes, for the study of anti-Semitism and the credibility of the academy more broadly, could not be higher.

IT WAS A gamble when Charles Small, YIISA’s director, established the center in 2007. He did so armed with a doctorate in philosophy from Oxford, engagement in social theory, experience in policy discussions in Canada, Europe, Israel, and the US, outside funding, and support from some Yale faculty and administrators. YIISA was to be a research center devoted to examining the history and nature of contemporary anti-Semitism—that is, not only the much examined anti-Semitism of the Nazi era but also Jew-hatred in the Middle East, including Iran, and in Islamist ideology and politics as well. Small was aware that there was a hard road to travel because the area specialists who read Arabic or, in the case of Iran, Farsi were almost universally opposed to even posing the question of anti-Semitism in the Middle East. Or, if they posed it, they had a ready answer to its causes—namely, Zionism and then the existence and policies of the state of Israel….READ MORE

Gil Troy: Yale Learns that scholars should study anti-Semitism

Source: Jerusalem Post, 6-21-11

After abruptly cancelling the Yale Interdisciplinary Initiative for the Study of Antisemitism – and enduring two weeks of criticism – Yale University is now launching the new Yale Program for the Study of Antisemitism (YPSA). Ignoring the last two weeks’ absurdities — the hysterics who called Yale “anti-Semitic” because of its decision and Yale’s ham-handed handling of the issue — the new center is most welcome. That one of the world’s leading universities recognizes anti-Semitism as worthy of scholarly study is significant. This center should study anti-Semitism past and present, in the United States and the world – acknowledging the characteristics defining what Robert Wistrich calls “The Longest Hatred” and its many variations.

The Yale program’s mission is scholarship not advocacy. YPSA should not be the ADL for Ph.Ds. The program should not train the global Jewish orchestra’s violin section to play the haunting sounds of Jewish suffering to score points. It should not be the center of strategy for the Jewish entry in the great American victimology sweepstakes, with different groups quibbling over who suffered the most to determine who most deserves sympathy along with affirmative action. Nevertheless, scholars must study the issue clearly and boldly, no matter how politically incorrect their conclusions.

It is surprising how lonely this new program will be; there are few such centers in America. In an age of super sub-specializing among scholars, and despite campus hypersensitivity to injustice, that five years ago there were no American centers studying anti-Semitism is scandalous. Dr. Charles Small deserves great credit for launching the first center in America, and for demonstrating through his able leadership how illuminating such centers can be.

Small needed to be a pioneer because anti-Semitism in America is often obscured by an invisibility cloak. The “Longest Hatred” is today a most overlooked, masked, and rationalized hatred. The obscuring is partially because American Jewish history is an extraordinary love story, a tale of immigrants finding a welcoming home suited to their skills, values, and ambitions. American anti-Semitism does not compare to American racism or European anti-Semitism. The whys and whats of these differences are fascinating and invite study.

The invisibility cloak works most effectively in hiding the “New anti-Semitism,” which singles out Israel and Zionism unfairly, disproportionately, obsessively. “Delegitimization,” an awkward term for an ugly phenomenon, is familiar to pro-Israel insiders but means nothing to most others, many of whom simply explain all hostility by pointing to Palestinian suffering. This rationalist analysis ignores Israel-bashing’s irrational, often anti-Semitic, pedigree. The modern anti-Semite often claims, “I am not anti-Semitic, I am just anti-Israel or anti-Zionist.” And the discussion quickly becomes muddled, because there are valid criticisms to make about Israel and Zionism – as about all countries and nationalisms.

On campus today, the burden of proof usually lies with bigots to demonstrate they are not biased. Except, somehow, the burden of proof usually falls on Jews when we encounter bias. Treating Israel as what the Canadian MP Professor Irwin Cotler calls “the Jew among nations,” frequently is anti-Semitic. Especially on campuses, the discussion is distorted because much modern anti-Zionist anti-Semitism comes from two sacred cows, the Red-Green alliance, that unlikely bond between some radical leftists and Islamists. They should be natural enemies. Yet they unite in hating Israel and Zionism.

Because so many professors and students are progressive, especially at elite universities, they frequently dismiss criticism of leftist anti-Semitism as McCarthyite or “neo-con.” But the anti-Israel hatred found on the left has its own morphology and pathology. Good scholarship analyzing it could explore its roots in the Stalinist 1930s and the anti-colonialist 1960s, could compare its European and American strains, while explaining what it says about the left’s stance towards the Western world and the Third World. More broadly, there is an historical mystery involved in how Zionism was tagged with the modern world’s three great sins – racism, imperialism, and colonialism – and why Israel is compared frequently to two of the 20th century’s most evil regimes, Apartheid South Africa and Nazi Germany.

In abandoning the realm of the rational, these accusations also demand study. Consider that Israel’s struggle is national not racial – so how is Zionism one of the few forms of nationalism deemed racist? Knowing that colonialism means settling land to which settlers have no prior claim – why are Israel’s origins called colonial? And how does imperialism properly describe the world’s 96th largest country holding on to neighboring territories it acquired after a war for self-defense, given that there are security as well as historic-religious reasons and given Israel’s willingness to return the Sinai to Egypt in 1979 for the promise of peace? With so many absurd accusations piling up, and frequently echoing with historic anti-Semitic tropes, scholars can provide clarity – without addressing the right or wrongs of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Scholars can also clarify the relationship between this genteel, often masked, “progressive” indictment and the cruder Islamist indictment, part of a systematic campaign to delegitimize Zionism, ostracize Israel, and characterize Jews as apes and pigs, monkeys and shylocks. How central is this rhetoric to the Islamist movement? What is the significance of the ugly caricatures and rhetoric emanating from the Arab world, which are a familiar fixture in the Arab press. It is not anti-Islamic or anti-intellectual to note, and analyze, the centrality of Jew-hatred in this anti-Western ideology.

We need consciences, not scholarship, to condemn anti-Semitism, and we have institutes galore to track it. Scholars can help define boundaries, create categories, sharpen vocabulary, explain origins, compare phenomena, provide context – also giving a reality check, warning of pro-Israel overreactions too. Anti-Semitism has been around for too long, done too much damage, perverted too much contemporary diplomacy and campus politics, to be ignored. Yale University should be congratulated for relaunching this program – other universities should follow.

Gil Troy is Professor of History at McGill University and a Shalom Hartman Research Fellow. The author of “Why I Am a Zionist: Israel, Jewish Identity and the Challenges of Today,” his latest book is “The Reagan Revolution: A Very Short Introduction.” giltroy@gmail.com

Caroline Glick: Yale, Jews and double-standards

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Last week Yale University announced its decision to close down its institute for the study of anti-Semitism. The move has been widely criticized as politically motivated. For its part, the university claims that the move was the result of purely academic considerations.While not clear-cut, an analysis of the story lends to the conclusion that politics were in all likelihood the decisive factor in the decision. And the implications of Yale’s move for the scholarly inquiry into anti-Semitism are deeply troubling.The Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Anti-Semitism (YIISA) was founded in 2006. Its purpose was to provide a scholarly approach to the study of contemporary and historical anti- Semitism. It was attached to Yale’s Institution of Social and Policy Studies. It was fully funded from private contributions. Yale did not in any way subsidize its activities from the university’s budget.

Since its inception, under the peripatetic leadership of its Executive Director Dr. Charles Small, YIISA organized seminars and conferences that brought leading scholars from all over the world to Yale to discuss anti-Semitism in an academic setting. Its conferences and publications produced cutting edge research. These included a groundbreaking statistical study published by Small and Prof. Edward Kaplan from Yale’s School of Management that demonstrated a direct correlation between anti-Israel sentiment and anti- Jewish sentiment….READ MORE

Yale University Anti-Semitism initiative to end

The Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Anti-Semitism (YIISA), which has operated since 2006, will not continue next year, Director of the Institution for Social and Policy Studies Donald Green said in a statement.

The decision to end the program has met criticism from groups across the nation that show support for Jewish people, such as the American Jewish Committee and the Anti-Defamation League. But Green, a political science professor, said YIISA generated little scholarly work that earned publication in highly regarded journals, and its courses attracted few students.

“YIISA suffered the same fate as other initially promising programs… that were eventually terminated at ISPS because they failed to meet high standards for research and instruction,” Green said, citing the Center for the Study of Race, Inequality and Politics as another example of an underachieving program.

By contrast, he said, other ISPS programs, such as the Ethics, Politics and Economics major and the Interdisciplinary Bioethics Center, draw “hundreds” of students to their classes each year, and programs such as the Field Experiments Initiative has produced “an extraordinary number” of articles in “top-tier academic journals.”

But several leaders of organizations that stand up against anti-Semitism have issued statements condemning Yale’s decision to close the initiative. Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League, said in a statement that Yale should have addressed the shortcomings of the program instead of ending it.

“If there were problems that the university raised, they needed to be dealt with and resolved,” he said. “The decision to end the Center was a bad one on its own terms, but it is even worse because it leaves the impression that the anti-Jewish forces in the world achieved a significant victory.”

David Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Committee, echoed Foxman’s sentiment. He said in a statement that he hopes Yale will reconsider and keep the program.

“We hope Yale will review this unfortunate decision so that YIISA’s critical work can continue,” Harris said. “In our experience working with YIISA, AJC has been impressed by the level of scholarly discourse, the involvement of key faculty, and the initiative’s ability, through conferences and other programs, to bring a wide range of voices to the Yale campus.”

A column published Monday in the New York Post claims that Yale closed the program because YIISA “refused to ignore the most virulent, genocidal and common form of Jew-hatred today: Muslim anti-Semitism.”

But Frances Rosenbluth, deputy provost for social sciences and faculty development, said the committee that reviewed YIISA based its assessment “solely on the issue of faculty leadership and involvement.”

“Yale is strongly committed to freedom of speech, which gives rise to a rich diversity of views on campus,” she said.

ISPS was established by the Yale Corporation in 1968.

Shuttering of Yale program on anti-Semitism raises hackles

Source: JTA, 6-8-11

Did Yale’s program on anti-Semitism die a natural death from lack of academic vigor, as the university says? Should it have been saved, as two major Jewish groups are arguing?

Or was it killed for being politically incorrect about Muslim anti-Semitism, as alleged by others?

The decision to terminate the Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Anti-Semitism came after its routine five-year review, according to a statement from Donald Green, who heads Yale’s Institution for Social and Policy Studies, the body that oversees the anti-Semitism initiative and other interdisciplinary programs.

The anti-Semitism initiative, Green said in a statement sent to JTA, failed to meet the institution’s criteria of delivering an “outstanding” performance in the promotion of “interdisciplinary research and instruction at Yale.”

The American Jewish Committee said the anti-Semitism initiative’s termination would “create a very regrettable void.”

AJC’s director David Harris said it “has been impressed by the level of scholarly discourse, the involvement of key faculty, and the initiative’s ability, through conferences and other programs, to bring a wide range of voices to the Yale campus.”

In a statement, the Anti-Defamation League said termination should not have been the only option, whatever the initiative’s problems.

“What was required was a concerted effort to work out the problems rather than ending the program,” the ADL’s national director, Abraham Foxman, said in a statement. “Especially at a time when anti-Semitism continues to be virulent and anti-Israel parties treat any effort to address issues relating to anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism as illegitimate, Yale’s decision is particularly unfortunate and dismaying.”

Green said that other programs that the Institution for Social and Policy Studies oversees, like the Study of American Politics and the Field Experiments Initiative and Agrarian Studies, have survived because “they have generated an extraordinary number of research articles in top-tier academic journals.”

Still others, like the Ethics, Politics and Economics major and the Interdisciplinary Bioethics Center, survive because they draw hundreds of students to their seminars, he said. Others — such as the Center for the Study of Race, Inequality and Politics and the Program on Nonprofit Organizations — were terminated because, like the anti-Semitism initiative, “they failed to meet high standards for research and instruction,” Green said.

In the case of the anti-Semitism initiative, Green said: “Little scholarly work appeared in top-tier journals in behavioral science, comparative politics, or history. Courses created in this area did not attract large numbers of students.”

Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, a group that fights anti-Israel bias on college campuses, suggested that Yale was buckling to pressure from Iran, whose Intelligence Ministry in January 2010 placed Yale on a list of 60 institutions it considered part of a U.S.-Israeli-British plot to “subvert” the Islamic Republic.

“By focusing attention on Islamic anti-Jewish hatred and on the genocidal agenda of Iran, YIISA clearly angered some faculty and administrators on campus who orchestrated this attack,” Scholars for Peace in the Middle East said of the anti-Semitism initiative. “Iran’s placing of Yale on their list of institutions to hate last year was looked at not as a badge of honor but as a problem. Some members of the Yale Corporation Board, the administration and the faculty seem to have forgotten that Iran is being embargoed by the United States.”

However, Yale officials said at the time of Iran’s announcement that the listing would have little effect on the university, and professed to be baffled as to why Iran targeted Yale. The Yale Daily News speculated that any statement by a Yale professor or student could have earned the university its place on the list, and that Iranian authorities might even have mistakenly assumed that an Iranian human rights group based in New Haven was affiliated with Yale.

Edward Beck, the president emeritus of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, called the shuttering of Yale’s anti-Semitism initiative “an egregious act, an affront to academic freedom.”

Kenneth Marcus, who directs the Initiative on Anti-Semitism at the San Francisco-based Institute for Jewish and Community Research, called the Yale program “a first-rate, world-renowned research institution.”

Yale’s anti-Semitism initiative “has quickly emerged as the leading university-based anti-Semitism research institute in North America,” said Marcus, a former staff director of the United States Commission on Civil Rights. “The idea that its closure could be based in any part on academic merit is simply preposterous.”

Yale’s anti-Semitism initiative stirred controversy last August when its signature conference featured as a keynote speaker Itamar Marcus, who heads Palestinian Media Watch, a group seen by Palestinians and some liberal pro-Israel groups as right wing.

When Marcus delivered a keynote lecture titled “The Central Role of Palestinian Anti-Semitism in Creating the Palestinian Identity,” Ma’en Areikat, the Palestine Liberation Organization’s envoy in Washington, wrote to Yale to say that lectures by Itamar Marcus and others were “racist propaganda masquerading as scholarship.”

Much of the conference’s program, however, was made up of sessions examining a broad range of topics related to anti-Semitism featuring noted scholars, such as Deborah Lipstadt, the Holocaust historian.

After learning that Yale’s anti-Semitism initiative was to close, Lipstadt posted a message on Twitter calling the decision “weird” and “strange” and saying that the program “ran first-rate events.”

The New York Post ran an opinion article by Abby Wisse Schachter accusing Yale of shutting down the program “almost certainly” because the initiative “refused to ignore the most virulent, genocidal and common form of Jew-hatred today: Muslim anti-Semitism.”

Thomas Conroy, a Yale spokesman, said in an email to JTA that Yale is “ready to provide support for working groups studying anti-Semitism” and noted that the university “has long been a leader in Judaic research, teaching and collection.” He mentioned its Judaica collection and its archive of video Holocaust testimony.