update deskSchools & Higher Education

Harvard antisemitism task force guidance criticized by alum as ‘slap in face’

The report fails to address “the pervasive and systemic nature” of anti-Israel, anti-Jewish rhetoric and incidents, says master’s degree graduate Shabbos (“Alexander”) Kestenbaum.

Harvard University Memorial Hall, home of Sanders Theatre. Credit: Chensiyuan via Wikimedia Commons.
Harvard University Memorial Hall, home of Sanders Theatre. Credit: Chensiyuan via Wikimedia Commons.

Twin panels created to address antisemitism and anti-Muslim bigotry at one of America’s elite universities released preliminary results of their findings, with suggestions for improvements.

A six-page document, dated June 6, that focused on Jew-hatred outlined potential changes that barely skimmed the surface of longstanding anti-Jewish, anti-Israel rhetoric and incidents at the Ivy League institution. And it resulted in frustrated responses from campus Jewish voices.

While the report did note that “the situation of Israeli students at Harvard has been dire,” the task force went on to urge marking pork products in dining halls and the creation of web pages to provide information about Jewish holidays. It also suggested “anti-harassment training” for students, as well as teaching about antisemitism and anti-Israel bias for employees.

Rabbi Hirschy Zarchi, the longtime director of Chabad Lubavitch of Cambridge, Mass., said the task force missed “what is exposed and visible for all to see.”

Shabbos (“Alexander”) Kestenbaum, a recent master’s degree graduate from Harvard Divinity School, told Jewish Insider that the report fails to address “the pervasive and systemic nature of antisemitism.”

He said he was “incredibly disappointed and frustrated,” and that the report amounted to “a slap in the face.”

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