Catherine Chatterley is a young academic at the University of Manitoba who is devoting her career to a study of what is widely regarded as the oldest hatred.
In the summer of 2010, Chatterley, who is a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada post-doctoral research fellow in the department of history, established the Canadian Institute for the Study of Anti-Semitism. This non-profit academic institute is the only one of its kind in Canada.
The mandate of CISA is to promote research, education and awareness about anti-Semitism, with the aim of helping to root it out of the modern world. Anti-Semitism, according to Chatterley, is both ancient and persistent and exists today in a variety of forms.
"Contemporary anti-Semitism is a variegated mix today," Chatterley explains. "The most threatening form of anti-Semitism operating in the world today is found in a variety of radical jihadist movements and in the ideology of Iran's leadership.... There are also areas of the former Soviet Union, and certain neighbourhoods in Western Europe, where anti-Semitism is a serious concern."
CISA intends to work towards its objective by supporting academic scholarship, university courses and public education opportunities. The Winnipeg-based centre already enjoys membership from diverse ethnic, political and religious groups across Canada, as well as the support of many internationally acclaimed scholars and human-rights experts.
World-renowned novelist and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Elie Wiesel has agreed to serve as the institute's honorary chairman.
"We feel truly privileged to have Prof. Elie Wiesel as the head of our Institute," Chatterley says." He is a uniquely respected symbol of Jewish continuity and survival after the Shoah, a remnant of the incredibly diverse and creative world that was Jewish Europe, but also symbolic of our deep universal humanity -- our connection to one another -- and our hopeful resilience as a species."
Wiesel's association with the institute will help Chatterley attract to Winnipeg leading scholars for guest lectures and seminars, and, eventually, visiting professorships. CISA also plans to publish an academic journal, and fund student scholarships and student internships with a proposed online publication. As well, Chatterley hopes the institute will be able to fund more local undergraduate and graduate level courses on the topics of anti-Semitism and the Holocaust.
Currently, says Chatterley, no Manitoba universities offer a program in Holocaust studies. Although she teaches a second-year history course on the subject, she says there is no guarantee it will be offered every year.
"History courses in this important subject matter are simply not available for our students despite overwhelming interest and high rates of registration for the one course that does exist," she says.
CISA is designed to help fill this void.
"With adequate financial support from the community we can make sure these subjects become a permanent part of the university curriculum in this province," Chatterley says.
"We can guarantee that students, the vast majority of whom are not Jewish, can take a history course in the Holocaust and in the history of anti-Semitism and then a second or third course after their initial interest is stimulated."
Like the majority of these students, Chatterley herself is not Jewish. Raised in Winnipeg and Montreal, she majored in European history at the U of M, received a master's degree in European intellectual history from Concordia University and a PhD in modern Jewish history and modern German and Central European history from the University of Chicago.
"I think the recent public exchanges in the newspapers about the Canadian Museum for Human Rights and its proposed Holocaust gallery clearly illustrate the need for a permanent curriculum in Holocaust history at Canadian universities," Chatterley says.
"Whether people like it or not, and regardless of their own personal feelings and collective grievances, the Holocaust is a catastrophic transformative event in western history and it is unique because its antecedents are 2,000 years old and yet still persist today. One cannot say that about the ideologies at work in other genocides."