update deskSchools & Higher Education

Harvard Jew-hatred task force co-chair quits, reportedly fearing school won’t take suggestions

Raffaella Sadun officially said she is “grateful to have had the opportunity to help advance the vital work to combat antisemitism.”

Widener Library at Harvard University 
 in Cambridge, Mass. Credit: Roman Babakin/Shutterstock.
Widener Library at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass. Credit: Roman Babakin/Shutterstock.

Alan Garber, the interim president of Harvard University, announced the Ivy League school’s Presidential Task Force on Combating Antisemitism on Jan. 19, two-and-a-half weeks after Claudine Gay stepped down as president of the university.

A little more than a month later, Raffaella Sadun, a business professor at Harvard, stepped down as co-chair of the 14-member task force. Garber replaced her with Jared Ellias, a law professor at Harvard. 

There have also been calls for the other co-chair, Derek Penslar, a Jewish history professor, to step down for minimizing Jew-hatred and criticism of Israel.

“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,” Sadun said about her departure. “I will continue to support efforts to tackle antisemitism at Harvard in any way I can from my faculty position.”

Garber stated that Sadun “has expressed her desire to refocus her efforts on her research, teaching and administrative responsibilities.”

“I am extremely appreciative of Professor Sadun’s participation in the task force over the past weeks. Her insights and passion for this work have helped shape the mandate for the task force and how it can best productively advance the important work ahead,” he added. “She has advanced our efforts to be a stronger, more inclusive Harvard, and for that, we owe her our deep thanks.”

Although neither Garber nor Sadun mentioned a reason for her departure, the Harvard Crimson, a student publication, reported that Sadun resigned “after repeatedly considering stepping down, because she felt the university would not commit to acting on its suggestions.”

The paper cited “a person familiar with the situation.”

The Crimson also quoted Rabbi Hirschy Zarchi, founding president of Harvard Chabad, who said that “Sadun had been frustrated about the task force for some time.”

In December, Rabbi David Wolpe, rabbi emeritus of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles, stepped down from Harvard’s Antisemitism Advisory Group on Dec. 7. “It was clear to me that I was hoping for changes that were not happening,” he told JNS. “Since I also felt like my name gave the panel a certain amount of credibility and yet I was not able to make any changes, I really had no choice.”

A group of Harvard alumni sued the university, arguing that the school’s failures on antisemitism have devalued their degrees. Six Harvard students sued the school in January for discrimination. 

The U.S. Department of Education announced in early February that Harvard is being investigated under Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Law. 

The House Committee on Education and Labor subpoenaed Harvard earlier this month after it said the university failed to turn over the documents sought by lawmakers.

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