Pears Institute for the study of Antisemitism : Birkbeck University of London
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Report on Activities: Policy Engagement

The Institute’s standing as an attractive partner for organisations engaged in forming and commenting on public policy depends on its reputation. Consequently, a great deal of time has been has been spent in this first year, since the Institute’s official launch in November 2010, raising its profile

This has involved several strands of activity. The rollout of a series of events, for both academics and the general public, has raised awareness of the Institute and its role. Similarly, extensive networking, speaker engagements and a series of on-going meetings with key groups and individuals, both in the UK and abroad, has firmly established the Institute as a major presence which seeks to understand antisemitism and make a contribution to the struggle to overcome it. This work has given rise to a number of tangible and important initiatives.

The creation of a very clear position statement for the Institute, together with a strong and distinctive identity – manifest in its website – has also been a high priority. The website in particular has helped to build the profile of the Institute and its role, elevating its reputation and international standing. The Institute’s stated aim of being both independent and inclusive has proved an extremely effective way to establish credibility - having a resonance across the academic world and in the wider community:

“Another significant development that will be increasingly important in the future is the establishment, for the first time, of an Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism at Birkbeck College. I estimate that 400 people attended the inaugural lecture by Professor David Feldman, which is a significant number. The intellectual interrogation that is needed to draw on and analyse lessons from around the world is already of huge value to us, and we look forward to working closely with that institute. It is a landmark for this country.”
John Mann MP, Hansard, 20 January 2011

“…historians of antisemitism, such as Professor David Feldman, who heads the new Pears Institute for the study of Antisemitism at Birkbeck University of London…. have developed a body of work that sets antisemitism within a wider context of Jewish-non-Jewish relations and does not see attitudes to Jews exclusively through the prism of prejudice.”
Antony Lerman, OpenDEMOCRACY.net, 10 March 2011

“The Pears Institute has been cited as a model by a lot of people and I've been very impressed by what I see on your website.  So I wanted to reach out. If you'd be willing to give some advice or suggestions, I would be very grateful.”
Maurice Samuels, Director, Yale Program for the Study of Antisemitism, 22 June 2011

The growing international profile and reputation of the Institute has led to it playing a key role in establishing two international research projects in 2011: the International Consortium for Research on Antisemitism and Racism and the ‘Muslims and Jews: Citizenship, Identity and Prejudice in Europe, U.S. and Israel’ project, both described above. This latter initiative, which will hold its first seminar in February 2012, hosted by the Institute, will give rise to a report which will engage with policy makers both in Israel and in the Jewish diaspora.

The Institute’s high profile in academic circles has also led to a number of international speaking opportunities for the Director in 2011/12. These include invitations to: lecture on Race, Equality and the Jews at Yale; speak at a cross-disciplinary conference on Jews, Christians and Muslims, hosted by the University of Hong Kong; participate in the Council for European Studies Conference in Boston, Massachusetts. 

In the UK, work to raise awareness of the Institute and build its reputation has focused on government and key organisations concerned with multiculturalism and racism. The Director established links with the Department for Communities and Local Government early on, being invited to attend the launch of the Department’s response to All-Party Parliamentary Enquiry into Antisemitism, 2006 (December 2010); and to attend a meeting on ‘Communities and Integration’ (February 2011). In January 2011 he spoke at a conference on Secularism, Racism and the Politics of Belonging organised by the Centre for Research on Migration, Refugees and Belonging (CMRB) and the Runnymede Trust. (This work continues to build. In September 2011 the Director was invited to brief a delegation from China’s Bureau of Exit and Entry Administration of the Ministry of Public Security, on the history of British border control and immigration policy.)

Crucially, the growing reputation of the Institute, with its commitment to independent, rigorous enquiry, has also facilitated constructive dialogue with the All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism. These early discussions will come to fruition in 2011/12 with a joint initiative to improve MPs’ awareness and understanding of antisemitism through a series of lectures and briefings.