Professor David Feldman of Birkbeck, University of London, will launch the Pears Institute for the Study of Antisemitism on Wednesday 10 November with his inaugural lecture, Equality, Race and the Jewish Problem. Professor Feldman was appointed its first director in April 2010.
The lecture will consider the changing debate on the Jewish presence in Britain in the 18th and 19th centuries, asking whether hostility towards Jews was marginal or central to British society.
“In 1753, just months after it passed into law, the Whig government repealed an Act of Parliament that allowed foreign-born Jews to naturalise as British subjects,” comments Professor Feldman. “Yet just over 100 years later Lionel de Rothschild became the first professing Jew to sit in Parliament. In the intervening century attitudes to Jews had changed radically. This legal transformation was underpinned by the new belief that despite superficial differences, Christians and Jews were essentially similar.”
Professor Feldman continues, “These notions of similarity were challenged over the coming decades both by the developing idea of racial difference and also by the persistence of the Jews’ distinctiveness. In this way, the historic debates on the Jews force us to consider how to reconcile equality and difference – a dilemma which remains as powerful in the present as in the past.”
The Pears Institute for the Study of Antisemitism was announced in November 2009, following a £1.5m donation from Pears Foundation. The Institute is founded on the principle that the study of antisemitism is vital to understanding all forms of racism, prejudice and xenophobia. It is committed to the interdisciplinary study of antisemitism, from political sciences to psychosocial studies and from history to law.
Drawing together work carried out in existing Schools and Centres within Birkbeck, the Institute will provide a range of undergraduate and postgraduate courses, carry out and disseminate high quality research and offer an unaffiliated source of public policy advice. The Institute will work closely with the Wiener Library, the world’s oldest institution for the study of antisemitism and the crimes of Nazi Germany, which is relocating to the Birkbeck campus in 2011.
Equality, Race and the Jewish Problem
Wednesday 10 November, 5pm. Beveridge Hall, Senate House, Malet Street, WC1. *NB Change of Venue*
Free entry; booking required. To reserve a place click here
Professor Feldman studied at Cambridge University before joining Birkbeck in 1993 as a history lecturer; he became a Reader in 2000. Prior to joining Birkbeck he taught at the University of Michigan, Christ’s College Cambridge and at Bristol University.
Click here to view his academic webpage.
Pears Foundation is a British family foundation rooted in Jewish values. Its work is concerned with positive identity and citizenship. The creation of the Pears Institute for the Study of Antisemitism complements the Foundation’s work in Holocaust education including the Holocaust Education Development Programme at the Institute of Education, a £1.5 million joint venture with the Government to improve teaching about the Holocaust in UK secondary schools.
For further information, go to www.pearsfoundation.org.uk
See this release online here.