PEARS INSTITUTE FOR THE STUDY OF ANTISEMITISM
Birkbeck, University of London
Equality, Race and the Jewish Problem
Speaker: Prof. David Feldman, Director of the Pears Institute for the Study of Antisemitism
Professor David Feldman launches the Pears Institute for the Study of Antisemitism with his inaugural lecture, Equality, Race and the Jewish Problem.
The lecture considers the changing debate on the Jewish presence in Britain in the 18th and 19th centuries, asking whether hostility towards Jews was marginal or central to British society.
“In 1753, just months after it passed into law, the Whig government repealed an Act of Parliament that allowed foreign-born Jews to naturalise as British subjects.” comments Professor Feldman. “Yet just over 100 years later Lionel de Rothschild became the first professing Jew to sit in Parliament. In the intervening century attitudes to Jews had changed radically. This legal transformation was underpinned by the new belief that despite superficial differences, Christians and Jews were essentially similar.”
Professor Feldman continues, “These notions of similarity were challenged over the coming decades both by the developing idea of racial difference and also by the persistence of the Jews’ distinctiveness. In this way, the historic debates on the Jews force us to consider how to reconcile equality and difference – a dilemma which remains as powerful in the present as in the past.”
The Pears Institute for the Study of Antisemitism is funded by the Pears Foundation. Professor Feldman was appointed its first director in April 2010. The Institute is founded on the principle that the study of antisemitism is vital to understanding all forms of racism, prejudice and xenophobia. It is committed to the interdisciplinary study of antisemitism, from political sciences to psychosocial studies and from history to law.
The Institute will carry out and disseminate high quality research, provide a range of undergraduate and postgraduate courses, and offer an independent source of public policy advice. It will also work closely with the Wiener library, the world’s oldest institution for the study of antisemitism and the crimes of Nazi Germany, which is relocating to the Birkbeck campus in 2011.
For more information visit: www.bbk.ac.uk/antisemitism
Welcome by Professor David Latchman, Master of Birkbeck .
Vote of Thanks by Professor Gareth Stedman Jones .