Photo Credit: Harvard University
Raffaella Sadun

If Harvard University has any hope of reining in antisemitism, or even the perception of antisemitism, on its campus, that possibility has become even more distant as the co-chair of the institution’s newly formed antisemitism task force has resigned, citing lack of confidence that Harvard would implement the task force’s recommendations.

Raffaella Sadun, a professor at Harvard Business School, had repeatedly sought a commitment that the university would act on whatever recommendations the task force would make rather than treat them as merely advisory, but failed to receive such assurance, The Harvard Crimson reported. “I will continue to support efforts to tackle antisemitism at Harvard in any way I can from my faculty position,” Sadun said in a statement.


Interim Harvard President Alan M. Garber formed the task force in January along with a parallel task force to combat anti-Muslim and anti-Arab bias. That attempt at equivalence, along with the appointment of Jewish studies Derek J. Penslar, who had downplayed the problem of antisemitism on campus and signed a letter criticizing Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, as co-chair, created controversy from the task force’s inception.

Meanwhile, in December, Rabbi David Wolpe, a visiting scholar at Harvard’s Divinity School, resigned from his role on then-president Claudine Gay’s antisemitism committee because he “could not make the sort of difference I had hoped.” Gay herself was forced to step down after her shockingly weak testimony before a congressional committee investigating antisemitism on university campuses. Gay and the other university heads who testified in December refused under repeated questioning to unequivocally condemn antisemitism on their campuses, including calls for genocide against Jews. Gay was also accused of multiple instances of plagiarism in her written work.

Harvard found itself in more hot water this month when the House committee which conducted the hearings subpoenaed the school for allegedly obstructing the government’s investigation of antisemitism on college campuses. It’s the first time in its history that the Education Committee has subpoenaed a university. Harvard is accused of failing to produce “priority documents” relating to the congressional probe and has now been given until March 4 to produce the material.

In a February 26 letter following Sadun’s resignation, Garber announced that Jared Elias, a professor at Harvard Law School, will be replacing Sadun as co-chair of the antisemitism panel. He also listed for the first time the full complement of membership of the two task forces, which includes professors and administrators as well as students. Curiously, the anti-Muslim task force has more members than the antisemitism one. The letter does not mention Jews or indeed the threats, intimidation, and attacks against Jewish students at all, but contains generalized statements such as these: “Over the past five months, grief, anger, and fear have taken a toll on members of our community as divisions on our campus have persisted… In the coming weeks, the task forces will undertake initial outreach, information gathering, and research, including listening sessions, surveys, and historical analysis, to better understand the experiences of members of our community who have been disproportionately affected by the events of October 7 and their aftermath.”

Professor Jeffrey Woolf, who recently retired from the Talmud Department of Bar Ilan University, commented, “I started at Harvard in 1976 to pursue a PhD in Jewish History under the demanding tutelage of Rabbi Prof. Isadore Twersky, z”l. I was enriched by premier scholars and by my interactions with people from a wide range of backgrounds and disciplines. Harvard represented academic excellence and intellectual breadth, a place where I could wear my Jewishness openly and without a second thought.

“Today, I feel utterly betrayed by the vicious antisemitism (masked as anti-Zionism) of much of the faculty and students and the thorough-going moral and intellectual fecklessness of the administration and faculty. I mourn the death of the academic integrity and cultural openness that I remembered. It is, for me, a hartz-vaytig.”

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Ziona Greenwald, a contributing editor to The Jewish Press, is a freelance writer and editor and the author of two children's books, “Kalman's Big Questions” and “Tzippi Inside/Out.” She lives with her family in Jerusalem.