A Law Professor at the University of Minnesota has resigned from the University’s Center for Jewish Studies (CJS), charging the institution with a failure to denounce a national rise in antisemitic violence and Hamas’ role in the recent Gaza conflict.
On Tuesday, Professor Oren Gross — the Irving Younger Professor of Law at the University of Minnesota Law School — announced on Facebook that after many years with the center, he will not “remain affiliated with CJS, which has turned into an echo chamber of silence and in which those, such as myself, who are unapologetic Zionists feel increasingly isolated.”
“Most of you stayed silent when Israel was attacked (again!),” Gross wrote, “And most of you stayed silent even when antisemitism and physical violence against Jews in the United States increased, this time not by individuals wearing red MAGA hats but rather the colors of the Palestinian flag.”
“It is thus, with a heavy heart, that I inform you all of the decision to resign my affiliated with CJS effective immediately,” Gross said, posting a version of an email he had sent to the multidisciplinary institution earlier Tuesday.
Speaking to The Algemeiner on Thursday, Professor Gross argued that centers and programs for Jewish studies like the CJS have an obligation to raise awareness of antisemitism — which, he charged, does not happen often enough.
“[This is] a problem that I have identified and that others have identified with many programs and centers on Jewish studies across the United States and beyond. It’s not everybody — it shouldn’t be thought of like that … I was affiliated with the center and I was proud to be … however, that being said, what we see are two phenomena. One is the silence in the face of rising antisemitism,” he said.
“It’s astounding that scholars will focus their scholarship on historical antisemitism, on genocide studies, on other aspects of Jewish life [but] select to become completely silent when antisemitism rears its ugly heads all around them.”
Gross also told The Algemeiner he is “not surprised” the world is experiencing a resurgence of anti-Jewish hate.
“I am disappointed in what I call the lack of intellectual courage, precisely in the place where intellectual courage is what you would expect,” he said.
At writing, Minnesota’s Center for Jewish Studies had not responded to an Algemeiner request for comment.
After a heated campus-wide debate in March, students at the university voted in favor of adopting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism during a referendum submitted by Minnesota Hillel and Students Supporting Israel (SSI). The measure passed with the support of more than 1,700 students, or 58% of the votes.
On Thursday, Gross called on Jewish faculty to support Jewish students during what many have described as a difficult and frightening time.
“I expect [that] Jewish faculty will stand with their Jewish students. That’s part of our commitment and our obligation. That’s part of, to me, the job description … standing with Jewish students who feel intimidated both emotionally and unfortunately, physically on campus,” he told The Algemeiner. “If we remain silent in this, we remain silent at our peril.”
He also asked that college administrators take a leading role in addressing antisemitism on college campuses.
“College administrators need to call a spade a spade and stop kind of toying around and pushing around and using kind of generic language. Antisemitism is the main problem. If you look at the FBI statistics of religion-based hate crimes, anti-Jewish crimes are by far the largest group,” he said, adding that the same was true on campuses specifically.
“So, enough with the pussyfooting. Call it antisemitism, what it is. The first step to an answer is to recognize a problem and call it by its proper name,” he said.
Professor Gross said his resignation from the CJS was effective immediately.