The Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism and Policy announced on Friday that Natan Sharansky, a Jewish icon who was one of the most well-known Soviet refuseniks and a leader of the fight to release Soviet Jewry, has become its new chair.

“I welcome Natan Sharansky as chair,” said former longtime national director of the Anti-Defamation League Abraham Foxman on behalf of the ISGAP board of directors. “He brings leadership in human rights at the political and intellectual level, essential in combating anti-Semitism.”

Founded in 2004, according to its mission statement, ISGAP is “the first interdisciplinary research center dedicated to the study of anti-Semitism based in North America. ISGAP is dedicated to creating an international perspective and presence, essential in a globalizing world. [It] aims to create a vibrant space, within the classroom of universities throughout the world in which high calibre scholarship, discussion and debate can develop and be nurtured.”

“I cannot think of an individual who carries a greater caliber of intellectual leadership in the fight against contemporary anti-Semitism, in combination with an extraordinary record in the struggle for human rights, including the rights of the Jewish people, as well as all groups of peoples, to be able to freely express and practice their identity,” said ISGAP founding director Charles Asher Small.

“His fight and moral victory over totalitarianism is historic and legendary,” he continued. “Given the rise in current totalitarian movements that rely on anti-Semitism, Mr. Sharansky’s leadership role in ISGAP is all the more vital.”

Previously, Sharansky served as chairman of the executive of the Jewish Agency for Israel from June 2009 to August 2018.