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Harvard antisemitism task force co-chair resigns in frustration over lack of action: reports

Second high-profile resignation from a Harvard antisemitism task force since December

The co-chair of a committee on antisemitism set up by Harvard University in the wake of the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks on Israeli civilians and the radical anti-Zionist campus protests that followed has resigned.

Co-chair Raffaella Sadun, a professor in Harvard’s Business School, did not explain why she stepped down. But, according to the New York Times, “a colleague said she appeared to be frustrated at how long it was taking to make progress on addressing the issue.”

Rabbi Hirschy Zarchi of Harvard Chabad told the Times “she didn’t feel confident or satisfied that she could lead and influence this process in a way that made sense to her.”

The Harvard Crimson reported that “she felt the University would not commit to acting on its (the task force’s) suggestions, according to a person familiar with the situation.”

This is the second high-profile resignation from a Harvard antisemitism task force since December by someone who has expressed frustration by what they contend is a lack of action at the Ivy League institution.

In December, Rabbi David Wolpe, a well-known rabbi teaching at Harvard this year, stepped down from a Harvard task force on antisemitism that preceded the one established now.

“Wolpe said his resignation is due to the role not allowing him to make the difference the school needs, which he realized after Harvard President Claudine Gay made widely criticized statements about her university’s handling of antisemitism as she appeared before the House Committee on Education and the Workforce earlier this week,” Jewish Insider reported.

In January, the remaining co-chair of the task force, Professor Derek Penslar, was revealed to have signed a letter calling Israel a “regime of apartheid.”

This left many Jewish students and supporters of Israel unhappy, questioning whether he shared their views, as Penslar has minimized the extent of antisemitism on campus, calling it exaggerated. There have been calls for Penslar, who teaches Jewish history, to step down.

Harvard Law School Professor Jared Ellias will take Sadun’s place as co-chair of the task force. A Harvard spokesman shared Sadun’s departing statement with the Crimson.

“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 wrote. “I will continue to support efforts to tackle antisemitism at Harvard in any way I can from my faculty position.”

The latest resignation prompted more condemnation of Harvard’s effort to protect Jewish and pro-Israel students, even as it is under investigation by Congress for failing to protect such students. Its leaders were recently subpoenaed by a GOP-led House education committee after they refused to hand over all documents related to the inquiry.

“Harvard’s antisemitism task force proves to be a total joke as another leader resigns” was the headline of a Feb. 27 New York Post editorial that pointed out the resignations follow the “now-ousted prez Claudine Gay’s inability to tell Congress whether calls for the genocide of Jews violated Harvard’s code of conduct.”

Critics have argued Harvard has fumbled its response to the visible antisemitism that has taken place on campus since Oct.  7 attack, which has left Jewish students and faculty feeling uncomfortable on campus.

Last week, an incident in which a deeply antisemitic cartoon made the rounds among the campus community roiled the school yet again.

Harvard interim president Alan Garber condemned the “flagrantly antisemitic” cartoon “after it was shared on social media by two student groups — the Harvard Undergraduate Palestine Solidarity Committee and the African and African American Resistance Organization — and reposted by Harvard Faculty and Staff for Justice in Palestine,” the Washington Post reported.

The student groups also apologized.

MORE: House committee subpoenas Harvard for withholding documents in antisemitism probe

IMAGE: Jan Yuan / Shutterstock

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