The first academic institute in Britain to deal solely with antisemitism — only the second in Europe — is to be set up in London, funded by £1.5 million from the Pears Foundation.
The new institute will occupy a building on the campus at Birkbeck College, part of the University of London, and will be next to the proposed new home of the Wiener Library, the world’s oldest Holocaust memorial institution, which will offer its resources to the project.
Trevor Pears of the Pears Foundation said: “Unfortunately, few funders appear to appreciate that education and scholarly study on issues such as antisemitism are vital, not only for the good and protection of the Jewish people, but for the good and protection of the whole of British society.
“It is happening now because our foundation has concluded that this strategic approach to the study of antisemitism is not being sufficiently addressed elsewhere.”
Mr Pears added: “We believe that the study of antisemitism is vital to the understanding of all racism and xenophobia. Our concern is that it is misunderstood and viewed solely as a Jewish issue. We believe it is a ‘societal illness’.”
The Master of Birkbeck, Professor David Latchman, said: “We are delighted that the Pears Foundation donation enables us to establish the institute.
“Birkbeck commands an unparalleled combination of expertise in the field of antisemitism and intolerance in a wide range of disciplines, from political sciences to psychosocial studies and from history to law. It is this singular mix that will provide the institute’s bedrock for research, teaching and its contribution to public policy.
“Birkbeck’s expertise, as well as the partnership with the Wiener Library, means that the institute will bring a historical dimension to the subject that doesn’t exist anywhere else.”
Anthony Spiro, chair of the Wiener Library, said: “We are very excited to be involved in this project. The Wiener is a world-renowned resource which will be available for use by the new institute.”
The Wiener expects to exchange contracts in the next few weeks and hopes to open its new home in spring 2011.