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Harvard University’s anti-Semitism tsar quits

Raffaella Sadun quit the anti-Semitism task force at Harvard University six weeks after her appointment
Raffaella Sadun quit the anti-Semitism task force at Harvard University six weeks after her appointment

Harvard University’s anti-Semitism tsar has resigned after less than two months over frustration that she could not bring about changes, according to reports.

It is the latest setback for the university, which has struggled to address concerns from Jewish students about discomfort on campus since Hamas’s Oct 7 attack on Israel.

Raffaella Sadun, a professor of business administration, quit the 14-member anti-Semitism task force that she co-chaired, six weeks after being selected for the role by Alan Garber, Harvard’s interim president.

A source close to the professor told The Harvard Crimson newspaper that she felt the task force’s “mandate did not include the swift implementation of measures to combat anti-Semitism”.

However, Mr Garber said that Dr Sadun left to focus on her “research, teaching, and administrative responsibilities”.

“I am extremely appreciative of Professor Sadun’s participation in the task force over the past weeks,” added Dr Garber. “Her insights and passion for this work have helped shape the mandate for the task force and how it can best productively advance the important work ahead.”

Alan Garber, Harvard's interim president, said Dr Sadun left to focus on her 'research, teaching, and administrative responsibilities'
Alan Garber, Harvard's interim president, said Dr Sadun left to focus on her 'research, teaching, and administrative responsibilities' - Paul Marotta/Getty

In her resignation statement, Dr Sadun said: “I am grateful to have had the opportunity to help advance the vital work to combat anti-Semitism and believe that President Garber has assembled an excellent task force.

“I will continue to support efforts to tackle anti-Semitism at Harvard in any way I can from my faculty position.”

Rabbi Hirschy Zarchi, of Harvard’s Chabad Jewish society, said on Monday that he had heard “from numerous people familiar with her thinking” that Dr Sadun was unhappy with the pace at which Harvard was addressing complaints of anti-Semitism.

‘Disturbing that she stepped down’

“There’s been a widespread sense in the community that there’s been so much data already on this,” Rabbi Zarchi told The New York Times.

“This task force was created in recognition that there’s a problem. It’s difficult for many to understand why it takes so long to bring about the change in a more timely, urgent manner. It was profoundly disturbing to me that she stepped down.”

Dr Garber announced the task force on Jan 19, two and a half weeks after Claudine Gay stepped down as president of the university. Before resigning and being replaced in an interim role by Dr Garber, Dr Gay had faced criticism over her handling of anti-Semitism on campus as well as plagiarism allegations.

Anti-Semitism ‘has been exaggerated’

Dr Sadun is being replaced by Jared Ellias, a law professor, who will sit as co-chairman alongside Derek Penslar, a Jewish history professor, who himself has faced calls to be removed from the task force over his views on the severity of the problem.

In an interview with The Boston Globe published after he was appointed, Dr Penslar questioned the severity of the anti-Semitism problem at Harvard. “It’s not a myth, but it’s been exaggerated,” he was quoted as saying.

Jewish students at Harvard have described feeling increasingly alienated as a result of the behaviour of pro-campus supporters on campus.