Pears Foundation removes name from antisemitism institute
search

The latest Jewish News

Read this week’s digital edition

Click Here

Pears Foundation removes name from antisemitism institute

Charitable trust confirmed the move in wake of an article by the Birkbeck institute's director, Prof. David Feldman, which criticised the 'confusing and divisive' IHRA definition

Lee Harpin is the Jewish News's political editor

2018 protest against antisemitism outside Labour HQ in central London
2018 protest against antisemitism outside Labour HQ in central London

The Pears Foundation has withdrawn its name from the Institute for the Study of Antisemitism at Birkbeck.

A statement from the charitable trust confirmed that from May 4 the Institute will no longer bear the Foundation’s name – although it will continue to be one of its funders.

The decision follows the publication of article by the director of the Pears Institute for the Study of Antisemitism at Birkbeck, Professor David Feldman in the Guardian which openly criticised what was described as the “confusing and divisive” IHRA definition of antisemitism.

While the Foundation’ statement did not directly refer to December’s article or name the Professor, it did reference “challenging and divisive issues.” ​

Amongst those to criticise Professor Feldman over the issue was Dave Rich, the Community Security Trust’s director of policy.

Mr Rich attacked the academic’s criticism of IHRA saying it was “the nuances in the definition’s language that make it so useful.”

In a further debate at the Limmud conference at the end of December Lord Mann, the government’s independent adviser on antisemitism, launched an outspoken attack on Professor Feldman.

He said Professor Feldman had repeatedly said that IHRA “chills free speech”, which was “a myth”.

In 2010 Birkbeck, University of London and Pears Foundation had together established the Pears Institute for the Study of Antisemitism.

It was the first academic institute of its kind in the UK.

But a March 23 statement from the Foundation confirmed: “As the Institute increasingly tackles challenging and divisive issues in the public sphere, the Foundation’s Trustees have decided that continuing to be so closely associated with the Institute is no longer in the F​oundation’s best interests.

“The Trustees of Pears Foundation and Birkbeck have, therefore, agreed that going forward the Pears name will no longer be directly associated with the Institute. The Foundation will continue to support its work as one of several funders.”

The Goldsmiths academic and campaigner against antisemitism David Hirsh told the Jewish News: “The institute hosts an infinite debate between those who study antisemitism and those who confer academic legitimacy onto antisemitism.

David Hirsh

“People who libel the IHRA definition as a dirty trick to silence criticism of Israel cite the institute’s director as an authority. He supports a wrecking declaration which explicitly legitimises what are in the real world the key elements of contemporary antisemitism, calling them ‘not in and of themselves’ antisemitic.

“If Pears wanted to support the scholarly study of antisemitism, they’ve been wasting their money.”

But Yair Wallach, lecturer in Israel studies at SOAS, accused the Foundation of a “sharp departure” from the principle of not intervening in academic decisions.

Mr Wallach added it was “all but obvious that the Foundation was displeased by a specific intervention of the Institute’s director, Prof David Feldman – his recent Guardian op-ed.”

The Jewish News has contacted the Pears Foundation for comment.

Support your Jewish community. Support your Jewish News

Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.

Unlike other Jewish media, we do not charge for content. That won’t change. Because we are free, we rely on advertising to cover our costs. This vital lifeline, which has dropped in recent years, has fallen further due to coronavirus.

For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.

Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.

You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.

100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...

Engaging

Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.

Celebrating

There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.

Pioneering

In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.

Campaigning

Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish News also produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.

Easy access

In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.

Voice of our community to wider society

The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.

We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.

read more:
comments