December 9, 2009
JONNY PAUL, Jerusalem post correspondent , THE JERUSALEM POSTThe University of London is set to open a new institute for the study of anti-Semitism, which will work in partnership with the world’s oldest Holocaust library, after London-based Pears Foundation donated £1.5 million to the project. The Pears Foundation and University of London’s Birkbeck College announced the establishment of the Pears Institute for the Study of Anti-Semitism last week. The new institute will become part of the college’s School of Social Sciences, History and Philosophy and will have close links with the College’s School of Arts and its School of Law. The Institute will work in partnership with the Wiener Library, the world’s oldest Holocaust memorial institution, which is set to move to the university in 2011 from its current central London location. The library will allow Birkbeck academic staff and students, as well as others, to use its vast resource for research, teaching and outreach activities in the area of anti-Semitism, religious and racial intolerance. “We are delighted that the Pears Foundation donation enables us to establish the institute and also that we will be able to provide a home for the Wiener Library,” Prof. David Latchman the master of Birkbeck, said. “Birkbeck commands an unparalleled combination of expertise in the field of anti-Semitism and intolerance in a wide range of disciplines, from political sciences to psychosocial studies and from history to law,” he continued. “Birkbeck will also offer related courses to attract a wide range of students from a host of backgrounds – from community, religious and educational leaders, school teachers; local government employees and civil servants. Birkbeck’s specialization in part-time university courses for those at work will enable its students to apply what they learn to their working lives, as teachers, civil servants and community leaders. “It is this singular mix that will provide the institute’s foundation for research, teaching and its contribution to public policy and debate. Birkbeck’s expertise, particularly within the history department, as well as the partnership with the Wiener Library, means that the institute will bring a historical dimension to the subject that doesn’t exist anywhere else,” Latchman added. The new institute will set out to fulfill three key aims – to offer an unaffiliated source of public policy advice, carry out and disseminate high-quality research and provide a range of undergraduate and postgraduate courses, including postgraduate research programs. “The Pears Foundation commissioned a research/mapping report which established that there appears to be no academic faculty or institution at any UK university undertaking the role we foresee for this new institute,” said Trevor Pears, executive chair of the Pears Foundation. “We are setting up the institute with Birkbeck at this particular time because our foundation considers that this strategic approach to the study of anti-Semitism is not being sufficiently addressed elsewhere and is long overdue. “We believe that the study of anti-Semitism is vital to the understanding of all racism and xenophobia. Our concern is that anti-Semitism is misunderstood and viewed solely as a Jewish issue. We believe anti-Semitism is a ‘societal illness’ – a rise in anti-Semitism signals something is wrong or worsening in society.” The institute is the result of several years of work, reflecting the Pears Foundation’s philosophy of promoting understanding of ‘the other’ through better education. This is exemplified in the foundation’s work in Holocaust Education; the School Linking Network, which supports local authorities across the UK to bring together high school students from diverse backgrounds; and Shared Futures, an interactive educational resource for students and teachers that explores Judaism in Britain today. The Wiener Library is the world’s oldest institution for the study of anti-Semitism and the crimes of Nazi Germany, the history of German and Central European Jewry, the Holocaust and its aftermath. It is a major archive comprising not only 60,000 books and 2,000 periodical titles but also 1.5 million pages of archival material.