Appendix M: Centers and Institutes
We have advanced a program of research on Jews of color. The issues of discrimination against Jews (antisemitism) are difficult in and of themselves. Layering them on top of issues of race make them even more complicated. We are collecting data in multiple studies about Jews who identify as people of color and their ethnic/religious characteristics. As well, we are trying to situate discussion of these issues in broader contexts, both about antisemitism and racism.
The Crown Center’s founding mission is to provide balanced and dispassionate research on the Middle East. Our founding principal partners served as the embodiment of diversity in the region with a Director from Israel and founding senior fellows from Palestine and Egypt. It has continued to be a priority at the Center to expand the diversity and inclusion of regional representation in both our research and personnel. Through our fellowship programs and graduate student support we have supported more than 55 scholars over the past 15 years, representing many of the countries in the Middle East. In this current academic year alone, we are supporting important research that addresses systemic racism and discrimination in the Middle East, such as Grinspoon Junior Research Fellow Alex Boodrookas’ work on the rights of citizenship and immigrant labor in the Gulf, and Anthropology PhD student Houman Oliaei's work on the displaced Yazidi population in Northern Iraq.
In recent years the Center has recognized and tried to address some of the challenges and inequity that our scholars from less affluent backgrounds face, especially when they commit to travel from outside the US to an expensive region like Boston for a fellowship opportunity. To combat some of these concerns, we instituted new incentives to include reimbursement of relocation costs and monthly transit pass fees. Additional efforts have been undertaken to advertise our opportunities to reach a larger and more diverse pool of applications so that we can recruit a diverse research cohort that reflects equity in terms of gender, ethnicity, and research focus. We take the same care to ensure the diversity of our invited speakers throughout the year in our Crown seminar series.
The Crown Center has embraced a similar model for the Islamic and Middle East (IMES) program. We offer IMES students reimbursement for attending conferences or events in the Boston area in an effort to provide access to Boston’s resources. We also continuing to make efforts to create a culture of diversity and inclusivity in the IMES program, despite the special challenges we face this year.
Looking forward, we will create several opportunities to address issues of racism and inequity in the Middle East. We hope to hold an event on campus during Spring 2021 (or Fall 2021) on “Racism in the Middle East,” which would highlight the work of our current scholars and include other perspectives, perhaps including Brandeis students from the region. We are also exploring ways that we can better integrate our diverse research team’s experiences and expertise (faculty, research fellows, and visiting scholars) to make them more available and accessible to the Brandeis student community. Our model is POL164 - The Arab and Israeli Conflict and Peacemaking - co-taught by Shai Feldman, Khalil Shikaki and Abdel Monem Said Aly beginning in 2005. Our goal is to expand continuing collaborations with other entities on campus, explore additional ways to bring more students into key discussions, and further address important issues of racism, inequity, and discrimination.
While HBI has been committed to supporting research about the experience of Jewish women across racial, class and geographic boundaries, the recent reckoning with structural racism against African Americans has led us to consider how we could do more to support research on the experience of Jewish women of color and issues of Jewishness, race and gender. To that end, we have undertaken the following new initiatives:
- We expanded the roster of speakers to our summer interns to include discussion of the experience of Mizrahi women in Israel (Claris Harbon) and African American Jews in North America (Tema Smith).
- We have created a new category in our Research Awards application for work that deals with Jews of color. We have also refreshed our Academic Advisory Committee for the research awards to include faculty with expertise in work by and about Jews of Color.
- In our call for proposals for the HBI Artist Show for 2021, we have emphasized that we welcome proposals that deal with the experience of Jews of color.
- In scheduling our speakers for the fall term, we are ensuring inclusion of scholars of color and those whose work explores the experience of Jews of color (including work on Indian Jews and Mizrahi Jews). For spring term, we have talks by Laura Arnold Liebman on Jews of Color in early America, Bindu Malieckal on Indian Jews, and Marra Gad on her experience growing up as Black and Jewish.
- The Director of HBI is with the editors of Nashim to ensure diversity amongst the editors and themes for our upcoming special issues. We have signed Ruth Roded to edit an issue on feminist legal and ritual innovation in Jewish and Muslim life, with an emphasis on Middle Eastern women, and Marjorie Agosin to edit an issue on Jewish women writers in Latin America.
- We are actively seeking nominations of Jewish women of color who might be interested in joining the HBI board of advisors
Racial Injustice is a key focus of programming and research at the International Center for Ethics, Justice and Public Life. The following briefly summarizes current actions of the center to advance knowledge and understanding of racial injustice in the US and globally. More details can be found at the Ethics Center Website.
- Utilizing video clips from past Gittler and Richman award winners the Ethic Center is compiling reference material on the Black Lives Matter movement and sharing links in the Ethics Center Weekly newsletter. The Joseph B. and Toby Gittler Prize was created by the late Professor Joseph B. Gittler to recognize outstanding and lasting scholarly contributions to racial, ethnic and/or religious relations. Past recipients of the Gittler Prize may be found online. Richman Fellows are selected from among individuals active in public life whose contributions have had a significant impact on improving American society, strengthening democratic institutions, advancing social justice or increasing opportunities for all citizens to realize and share in the benefits of this nation. Past recipients of the Richman Fellowship may be found online.
- The Ethics Center is exploring the design of an online symposium for spring 2021 with past Gittler/Richman awardees to discuss issues of racial injustice
- The Ethics center has supported the development of a new course, “Global Justice and Societies in Transition, LGLS 129a”, that has a focus on seeking justice for the legacy of slavery in US
- The Ethics Center supports the A&S minor in Creativity, the Arts, and Social Transformation (CAST). CAST is working with partners across the university in a new working group to explore ways to dismantle white supremacy/racism in our curricular, research and creative spaces
As scholars, we are committed to using race and diversity as analytical categories with ethical implications. Our project on desired educational outcomes across religious traditions is, at the same time, about diverse racial and ethnic experiences, given the prominence of non-whites among American Muslims. In our work on Jewish day schools, we created space at our conference in 2018 to discuss the experience of racial minorities in the schools, and we will be including a chapter on that topic in the book that we are editing. Likewise, our project on adult Jewish learning incorporates a study that specifically focuses on the experience of non-white adults.
We have also begun to explore the possibility of a new scholarly initiative that would focus on the experiences and perspectives of Jews of color (JOC) more generally. There has been a great deal of activity on this topic in recent years, and of course even more intensively this spring, in the form of journalism, personal accounts, advocacy, training and more. What is missing, however, is good, patient, rigorous scholarship. This is the role that Brandeis should play, if we aspire to be the location for serious investigation of important Jewish topics.
This initiative should be led by one or more scholars of color; these leaders could have an affiliation with Brandeis related to this initiative without necessarily holding faculty appointments. It should be multidisciplinary, encompassing social scientific study of the experiences and perspective of Jews of color but also scholarship that draws on history, philosophy, and literature. To the extent possible, it should include Brandeis faculty as collaborators or critical colleagues, and should provide learning and research opportunities for Brandeis students. Finally, it should integrate an outward-facing element, serving the Jewish community.
The Schusterman Center for Israel Studies will present a roundtable discussion titled "Protests, Panthers, and Politics: Rethinking Blackness in Israel," to be held virtually, on February 16, 2021. The panelists will be Shula Mola and Bryan Roby. Dr. Shula Mola is an Ethopian-Israeli scholar and civil rights and anti-racism activist. Dr. Bryan Roby is a historian at the University of Michigan whose current book project asks how and why Middle Eastern Jews became associated with Blackness. The conversation will be moderated by Yuval Evri, the incoming Marash-Ocuin Chair in Mizrahi/Sephardi Studies and Assistant Professor in NEJS. Among the topics we will discuss are the changing meanings of Blackness in different societies, with Israel as a focus, the role of Diaspora politics and Black identity, and the BLM movement from a global perspective, especially as it relates to the Israeli Palestinian conflict.
For our flagship summer program, SIIS, we have increased the amount of time paid to Israel’s minority populations and hired consultants to ensure that we are learning from the best people on the ground. Additionally, our Center director is currently teaching a course on the history of American antisemitism which draws comparisons between racism and antisemitism in the United States.
Finally, our associate director for administration, Rise Singer, is chair of the Brandeis University Staff Advisory Council (BUSAC) and plays a significant role with the committee and others in efforts to address systemic racism on campus.
"The Tauber Institute and the Sarnat Center continue to combine resources and efforts to reassess ""antisemitism."" The Sarnat Library within the Tauber Series has regularly solicited and supported publication of such texts as Inside the Antisemitic Mind, Germany’s Prophet: Paul de Lagarde and the Origins of Modern Antisemitism, and Jews and Race in the Brandeis Library of Modern Jewish Thought. We will open the colloquium season with a paper by Marc Dollinger on antisemitism on college campuses (Dollinger is the author of BUP’s Black Power, Jewish Politics).
Future efforts include:
- Attempts to assess relations of Black thinking about Jews and Judaism in relation to Jewish thinking about the Black experience and Black Christian thought.
- A planned Brandeis seminar on the utility of concepts such as antisemitism and Judeophobia.
- Attempts to coordinate discussions of how antisemitism relates to anti-black racism.
- Invited a proposal for the Brandeis Library of Modern Jewish Thought for a contemporary source book on Black-Jewish thought and relations, edited by Susannah Heschel, Eli Black Professor of Jewish Studies, Dartmouth College; Shaul Magid, Distinguished Fellow in Jewish Studies, Dartmouth College; Jay Carter, and Anthea Butler, Associate Professor of Religious Studies and Africana Studies, UPenn.
- Micro-Grants for Social Justice: In an effort to promote meaningful conversations, engagement, and critical explorations of race, Black-Jewish relations, Jews of color, and other relevant topics, the Tauber Institute began offering time-sensitive micro-grants up to $400, which may be used to support academic research, creative projects, and educational initiatives (i.e., reading groups). We have coordinated this effort with Wendy Cadge in the Dean’s office and spread the word among numerous departments and programs.
Proposals are accepted and funded after review on a rolling basis. Those received to date include:
- a monthly reading group featuring material by Jews of color and about the experiences of Jews of color, also featuring speakers who identify as Jews of color.
- a 5-person Zoom speaker series of diversity leaders in Jewish life, including Sandra Lawson, a rabbi of color in the Reconstructionist movement; Jonathan Branfman, a scholar on issues of race and anti-Semitism; and Tema Smith, a Jewish diversity advocate and Black Lives Matter Activist, among other Jewish writers, thinkers, and activists.
- an interactive website that educates users on Black-Jewish relations and acts as a portal where engagement opportunities around the US are presented.
- a reading group focused on the history and relationship of Jewish and Black communities in the South, followed by multiple small community reading groups involving synagogues and black activist groups in the Hudson Valley.
- Support for Hornstein Program community conversations discussing readings from the book, ""The Price of Whiteness: Jews, Race, and American Identity,"" by Eric L. Goldstein, as well as other collected readings from Baldwin and Hooks on Jews and African Americans (and their intersections).
As part of our strategic planning process over the last year and a half, we have put diversity in the scholar body as a top priority. The plan to institute term limits for scholars is fundamental to creating space for a new diversity of visiting scholars. So is the newly constituted committee for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, composed of scholars and faculty, at the WSRC. The Faculty Affiliates to the Center, largely from WGS, bring much needed diversity to the WSRC in terms of their research topics, backgrounds, and social locations. The new director, Harleen Singh, who takes office January 1, 2021, will extend and deepen those strong faculty connections and internationalize the research agenda.
We have also set as a goal diversifying the composition of the Board. We plan to invite Mark Brimhall-Vargas to a Board meeting in October to help us think about how to do that.
When the Black Lives Matter mobilization took center stage in spring, we wrote and published a Statement of Solidarity, signed by the Director, the Director-Designate, the staff, and the entire National Board of Advisors. In its wake, two visiting scholars, both of whom are the only African American scholars, made a public demand to become resident scholars. We took quick action to extend that offer to them, granting a three-year courtesy appointment effective September 1st.
Our lecture series this fall includes talks addressing different dimensions of racial inequity—from discussion about women of color candidates for office to Black women involved in the suffrage movement to rural women in India hit by the Covid epidemic while struggling with the agricultural enterprise. The Kniznick Gallery curated “Root Shock” and “Krautsourcing,” shows by artists of color and a transgender artist in FY20. The current show, newly mounted virtually, engages the issues of voting and citizenship: “How will They Know We Were Here? 100 years Beyond Women’s Suffrage.”