Harvard antisemitism task force co-chairwoman resigns citing lack of university commitment: Report

The co-chairwoman of Harvard University’s newly formed antisemitism task force stepped down this week, reportedly citing concerns the school would not commit to implementing the group’s recommendations.

Harvard Business School professor Raffaella Sadun resigned Sunday as co-chairwoman of the task force formed by interim Harvard president Alan Garber, marking another stumble in the school’s widely criticized response to antisemitism.

“Professor Sadun has expressed her desire to refocus her efforts on her research, teaching, and administrative responsibilities at HBS,” Garber said in a statement. “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.”

According to the Harvard Crimson, citing a source close to the matter, Sadun wanted assurances that the university would implement recommendations prior to the task force submitting them, as opposed to the university viewing them as optional. She decided to step down after being frustrated by a perceived lack of action that could come from the group’s suggestions.

“I am grateful to have had the opportunity to help advance the vital work to combat antisemitism and believe that President Garber has assembled an excellent task force,” Sadun said in a statement. “I will continue to support efforts to tackle antisemitism at Harvard in any way I can from my faculty position.”

The task force has been a source of controversy since Garber commissioned it, including from the decision to name as co-chairman Derek Penslar, a Jewish history professor who has been criticized for characterizing Israel as a “regime of apartheid” in a letter he signed last August, as well as Penslar’s downplaying antisemitism at Harvard as “exaggerated” in past statements.

According to the Crimson, Penslar himself considered stepping down from the post after receiving backlash, but he ultimately decided to remain on board and received public support from 226 Jewish studies scholars, who noted he is “an enthusiastic supporter and invaluable interlocutor for generations of scholars based in Israel and other countries.”

Harvard Chabad founder Rabbi Hirschy Zarchi said Sadun had been concerned with the task force for a period of time prior to stepping down. Her departure came after Rabbi David J. Wolpe stepped down from the task force’s predecessor, an antisemitism advisory committee established by Harvard’s then-President Claudine Gay, who said he was unable to “make the sort of difference I had hoped.”


Sadun left after fewer than 40 days, and Wolpe left the advisory committee after less than a month, prompting billionaire hedge fund manager Bill Ackman, who is largely regarded as a driving force behind Gay’s ouster, to note on X that “The half life of a ⁦@Harvard⁩ antisemitism task force member is about 60 days,” asking, “I wonder what’s going on.”

Garber announced the full contingent of task force members Sunday, as well as the members of a Presidential Task Force on Combating Anti-Muslim and Anti-Arab Bias. Harvard Law School professor Jared Ellias was named as Sadun’s replacement for co-chairperson.

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