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VCU forum to explore past, present and future of anti-Semitism in the United States

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With anti-Semitism on the rise in the United States, an upcoming forum at Virginia Commonwealth University will explore the past, present and future of anti-Jewish attacks, sentiment and rhetoric.

The panel discussion, “American Anti-Semitism: Past, Present, and Future,” will be held on Wednesday, April 26, at 7 p.m. in room 2201 of the Academic Learning Commons, 1000 Floyd Ave. in Richmond. The event will be free and open to the public.

According to the Anti-Defamation League, there has been a sharp increase in anti-Semitism in recent months. Jewish cemeteries in St. Louis and Philadelphia have been desecrated, with dozens of headstones toppled over. In the months leading up to the presidential election, there was a surge of anti-Semitic tweets targeting Jewish journalists. ADL’s regional offices in 26 cities have reported rising numbers of anti-Semitic incidents such as spray-painted swastikas and bullying in schools. Meanwhile, fierce debates about anti-Semitism, Zionism, and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict rage on university campuses, in dialogue with modern discourses of intersectionality, privilege, micro-aggressions and safe spaces.

“Historically, anti-Semitism has been a relatively weak force in the United States, as Jewish immigrants have flocked to America’s shores to escape bigotry and poverty abroad,” said David Weinfeld, Ph.D., visiting assistant professor of Judaic Studies in the School of World Studies in the College of Humanities and Sciences. “Nonetheless, anti-Semitism has hardly been absent from American history. Understanding that history, including the changing global and domestic contexts of Jewish life along with recent political developments, can help us understand the surge in American anti-Semitism today.”

The panel discussion will feature:

  • Daniel Heller, Ph.D., an assistant professor of Jewish Studies at McGill University. He earned his doctorate in history from Stanford University. His book, “Jabotinsky's Children: Polish Jews and the Rise of Right-Wing Zionism,” is forthcoming from Princeton University Press.
  • David Weinfeld, Ph.D., the visiting assistant professor of Judaic Studies at VCU. He earned his doctorate in Hebrew and Judaic Studies and History from New York University. He is working on his first book, “An American Friendship: Horace Kallen, Alain Locke, and the Development of Cultural Pluralism.”
  • Emily Shire, politics editor at Bustle, the largest digital platform targeting millennial women. Prior to this role, she was a deputy editor at The Daily Beast. Her writing has appeared on the web for a number of outlets, including The New York Times, The Atlantic, The Washington Post, and the Jewish Daily Forward. She earned her B.A. from Harvard University.
  • Phoebe Maltz Bovy, Ph.D., who just published her first book, “The Perils of ‘Privilege’: Why Injustice Can’t Be Solved by Accusing Others of Advantage,” with St. Martin’s Press. She is editor of The Sisterhood blog at The Forward. She holds a Ph.D. in French and French Studies from New York University.


The public forum is sponsored by the School of World Studies in the College of Humanities and Sciences and the VCU Center for Judaic Studies.

About VCU and VCU Health

Virginia Commonwealth University is a major, urban public research university with national and international rankings in sponsored research. Located in downtown Richmond, VCU enrolls more than 31,000 students in 225 degree and certificate programs in the arts, sciences and humanities. Seventy-nine of the programs are unique in Virginia, many of them crossing the disciplines of VCU’s 13 schools and one college. The VCU Health brand represents the health sciences schools of VCU, the VCU Massey Cancer Center and the VCU Health System, which comprises VCU Medical Center (the only academic medical center and Level I trauma center in the region), Community Memorial Hospital, Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU, MCV Physicians and Virginia Premier Health Plan. For more, please visit www.vcu.edu and vcuhealth.org.