Harvard’s Antisemitism Task Force Co-Chair Resigns After a Month in Charge

Ken Cedeno/Reuters
Ken Cedeno/Reuters

The co-chair of a Harvard University task force dedicated to combating antisemitism has resigned after just a month in the role, the Ivy League school has announced.

Harvard’s interim president, Alan Garber, launched the task force in January after the resignation of his predecessor, Claudine Gay, amid a furious backlash to answers she gave at a congressional hearing about on-campus antisemitism. Professor Raffaella Sadun, who had been at the helm of the task force for roughly five weeks, is now being replaced, the university announced Sunday.

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“Professor Sadun has expressed her desire to refocus her efforts on her research, teaching, and administrative responsibilities at HBS [Harvard Business School],” Garber said in a statement. He added that he is “extremely appreciative” of Sadun’s efforts in recent weeks. “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,” he added. “She has advanced our efforts to be a stronger, more inclusive Harvard and for that we owe her our deep thanks.”

In her own statement, Sadun said she felt “grateful to have had the opportunity to help advance the vital work to combat antisemitism” that she believes Garber has put together an “excellent task force.” “I will continue to support efforts to tackle antisemitism at Harvard in any way I can from my faculty position,” she added.

The task force, which was announced on Jan. 19, was established with Derek Penslar, a professor of Jewish history, as its other co-chair. Penslar’s appointment created controversy as some critics took exception to some of his previous positions about Israel and antisemitism.

In August, before Hamas’ Oct. 7 attacks in Israel, Penslar signed an open letter criticizing Israel’s “long-standing occupation” which has “yielded a regime of apartheid.” In January, he also told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that Harvard “does have a problem with antisemitism” but said that “outsiders” had taken a “very real problem and proceeded to exaggerate its scope.”

Some critics, including economist Larry Summers, said his selection as co-chair of the task force was “highly problematic,” although an open letter signed by Jewish leaders around the country defended Penslar’s appointment, noting his “virtually unparalleled” depth of knowledge about antisemitism.

Penslar will continue in his role while Sadun will be replaced with Jared Ellias, a law professor, as the new task force co-chair.

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