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Scholars Pen Letters in Support of Former Director of Berlin's Jewish Museum

BERLIN, GERMANY—Following Peter Schäfer’s decision to step down from his post of director of Berlin’s Jewish Museum amid backlash to a tweet critiquing the German parliament’s recent designation of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel as anti-Semitic, scholars are rallying to Schäfer’s defense.

Coauthored by professors Ishay Rosen Zvi of Tel Aviv University and Moulie Vidas of Princeton University, a letter sent to the German commissioner for culture and media and signed by a group of fifty Talmud scholars reads: “We are deeply concerned about the growing censorship of free speech and the shrinking possibility of criticizing or even questioning government policies which are manifested in these recent developments. We are scholars of the Talmud and Ancient Judaism who hold diverse and even opposing opinions regarding the BDS movement. But we are united in our profound admiration for Schäfer as a scholar, academic leader, and public intellectual. For those of us who know professor Schäfer and his work, it is shocking to hear the claim that he is not committed to Jewish causes and the fight against anti-Semitism.”

Three hundred and twenty-two Jewish studies scholars have also signed a separate letter of support drafted by Annette Reed of New York University and Susannah Heschel and Shaul Magid of Dartmouth University that condemns the “false accusations” against the Schäfer and demands “a public apology to him from those who have spread lies about him.”

Schäfer, who has led the institution since 2014 and whose contract was extended for a year in April, resigned on Friday, June 14, “to avoid further damaging” the museum.

June 25, 2019