New Lab for the Study of Global Antisemitism

(photo by University of Toronto)

Published: January 17, 2024

By Faculty of Arts & Science Staff

A new lab at the University of Toronto’s Anne Tanenbaum Centre for Jewish Studies (CJS) will be a hub for scholars from across disciplines to examine the persistence of antisemitism in a global context.  

“Antisemitism has emerged in the global public discourse on a level that has not been seen in generations,” says Anna Shternshis, director of the CJS and the Al and Malka Green Professor of Yiddish Studies in the Faculty of Arts & Science. “By offering a space for convening and intellectual conversation, we hope to generate new insights on antisemitism as a phenomenon, and new responses for tackling its insidious pervasiveness around the world.” 

Shternshis is a distinguished scholar with an international reputation for her expertise in Jewish culture in Russia and the Soviet Union, oral history as well as Yiddish music. Recently awarded a prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship for her work on Nazi-occupied Ukraine, she lectures widely around the world and her work has been featured in print media in 45 countries in 22 languages.

The new Lab for the Study of Global Antisemitism will be housed at the CJS, and its inaugural director will be Ron Levi, a professor at the Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy and the department of sociology who is a Distinguished Professor of Global Justice. Levi’s research focuses on aspirations to law and justice, and on how we address crime, violence and atrocities during turbulent times. This includes a collaborative project studying hate and counter-hate speech that’s funded by the University of Toronto-Hebrew University of Jerusalem Research & Innovation Alliance. Levi is director of the Global Justice Lab in the Munk School, which works with justice systems under stress, and a recipient of the Ludwik & Estelle Jus Memorial Human Rights Prize. 

“There is a long history of expertise on issues relating to antisemitism, across fields of study, within and beyond the Anne Tanenbaum Centre for Jewish Studies,” says Levi, “and I am eager to strengthen these connections, to learn from each other, to inquire, and to build our collective understanding of antisemitism and global responses to this challenge.”

The goals for the new lab include bringing together scholars and students whose work connects, directly or indirectly, with the study of antisemitism. Among the lab’s first initiatives will be to convene an international scholarly lecture series on antisemitism across a wide range of fields of study, opening new opportunities for collaboration among researchers worldwide. The lab will develop research, teaching and study partnerships with other centres of knowledge for the study of antisemitism globally.

“The University of Toronto is well situated for this scholarship,” says Trevor Young, U of T’s vice-president and provost. “Our academic community has long-standing reach and expertise on the social and cultural issues of societies worldwide. Within the Canadian context, the University of Toronto offers the opportunity to study antisemitism as a global and comparative phenomenon, thereby offering a unique academic perspective within the field.” 

Melanie Woodin, dean of the Faculty of Arts & Science, says “it’s imperative that we continue to invest in scholarship in this area, and the connection to racism and exclusion broadly.”

She adds that she is committed to bringing together expertise within the faculty and beyond, and foresees that the lab will also help the faculty grow its research and other scholarly activities in relation to the state of democracy. 

In addition to the expertise within CJS, Woodin sees great opportunities for the lab to pursue academic collaborations – such as with the Systemic Islamophobia Research Lab (SIRL) in the Institute of Islamic Studies and the Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy, which has an area of focus on the future of democratic societies and is soon to launch a new series of talks on the Middle East conflict. 

“It’s an understatement to say we are seeing a rise in antisemitism and other forms of hate, not just in places of higher learning, but in all facets of society,” says Woodin. “In search of any solutions, we must delve into the complexities before us and openly collaborate to examine how antisemitism continues to permeate the world around us.”

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