News

More Than 30 Harvard Students Hunger Strike for 12 Hours in Solidarity With Brown Protesters

News

Pro-Palestine Organizers Slam Harvard’s ‘Repression’ of Student Protest in Sunday Rally

News

Marsh USA Files to Dismiss Harvard Lawsuit Regarding SFFA Legal Fees

News

A ‘Universal Harvard Experience’: Students Seek Love and Laughter Through Datamatch

News

Graham & Parks Parents Allege Poor Communication From Principal Amid Investigation

Jonah Steinberg Will Advise Harvard Antisemitism Task Force, Boaz Barak Joins as Member

Interim Harvard President Alan M. Garber will appoint Computer Science professor Boaz Barak to the presidential task force on antisemitism.
Interim Harvard President Alan M. Garber will appoint Computer Science professor Boaz Barak to the presidential task force on antisemitism. By Claire Yuan
By Tilly R. Robinson and Neil H. Shah, Crimson Staff Writers

Interim Harvard President Alan M. Garber ’76 named former Harvard Hillel Executive Director Jonah C. Steinberg as an adviser to the presidential task force on antisemitism and tapped Computer Science professor Boaz Barak to join the group, according to a person familiar with the situation.

While neither appointment has been announced by the University, Steinberg’s new position was listed on Harvard’s internal directory as of Sunday evening. Meanwhile, Barak appeared at a Harvard Hillel event on Sunday titled “Meet the Antisemitism Taskforce” with the group’s co-chairs, Jewish history professor Derek J. Penslar and Harvard Business School professor Raffaella Sadun.

University spokesperson Jonathan L. Swain declined to confirm Barak or Steinberg’s appointments when reached for comment on Sunday. The full makeup of both presidential task forces will be announced in the coming days, according to Swain.

Barak, who is Israeli-American, and Steinberg have both publicly criticized the University’s response to Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel and demanded Harvard leadership do more to combat antisemitism on campus. Barak did not respond to a request for comment Sunday, while Steinberg wrote in an email early Monday that he was “glad and honored to return in this capacity to Harvard.”

Sunday marks 23 days since Garber’s initial announcement on the task forces, though he has yet to announce any further details about their activities or their members beyond the co-chairs’ names.

“Sunday’s meeting hosted by Harvard Hillel is one of many opportunities the co-chairs of the task forces, and future members of the of the task forces, will take part in as they engage with the Harvard community and begin to move their work forward,” Swain wrote in a statement.

The task force, which Garber announced alongside a separate Islamophobia task force, has become a flashpoint in the national debate surrounding Harvard’s handling of antisemitism on its campus.

Penslar’s appointment as co-chair drew backlash from some of Harvard’s most vocal critics in the months since Oct. 7, including former University President Lawrence H. Summers. Opponents of the selection accused Penslar of minimizing campus antisemitism and exhibiting an anti-Israel tilt in his scholarship and previous public statements.

In response, a number of Penslar’s colleagues and peers affirmed their support for his selection. Penslar, who directs Harvard’s Center for Jewish Studies, mulled stepping down from the task force at the time, but has since stayed on.

Barak himself had opined on the pushback against Penslar’s selection, posting on X that he disagreed with an op-ed Penslar had published in The Crimson — which Barak felt downplayed campus antisemitism — but that he felt the backlash had gone too far.

“People can contest the decision to make him co chair of @Harvard‘s anti semitism task force, a thankless position which I’m sure he accepted out of a sense of duty,” Barak wrote. “But attacks on his character are uncalled for.”

Barak was one of five Harvard faculty who circulated an open letter — signed by more than 350 faculty members — that rebuked a controversial Oct. 7 student statement published by the Harvard Undergraduate Palestine Solidarity Committee as “condoning the mass murder of civilians.”

In a January op-ed in The Crimson, Barak wrote that he interpreted certain slogans used by pro-Palestine protesters — including the controversial chant “from the river to the sea,” which former Harvard President Claudine Gay condemned in an email — as “calls for violence and ethnic cleansing.”

In the op-ed, Barak urged Harvard affiliates to “accept” the presence of opinions they “find offensive or even abhorrent” but decried disruptions of classes and events.

Steinberg’s return to Harvard as an adviser to the task force comes less than one year after he stepped down from Hillel in March 2023. During his 12-year tenure leading Hillel, Steinberg was a firm pro-Israel voice on campus.

After leaving Hillel, Steinberg became the Anti-Defamation League’s New England regional director — a role he departed late last month.

In August 2022, Steinberg sent an email to Hillel members denouncing student demonstrators at Harvard’s freshman convocation — members of the PSC who held up a sign protesting “Israeli Apartheid” — as “anti-Israel” and “anti-Harvard.”

Later that semester, he sent an email to Hillel members criticizing pro-Palestine student organizations for inviting Palestinian writer Mohammed El-Kurd to a talk on campus.

Steinberg alleged in a Jerusalem Post op-ed last month that the “campus opposition to Israel traffics mostly in simplistic slogans and in the zero-sum-game notion that Israel must be destroyed or ‘decolonized’ in order for Palestinians to have dignity.”

In his email Monday, Steinberg said despite “all the recent unrest and the challenges to be addressed,” he views Harvard as “a uniquely special place.”

“I look forward to helping Harvard address the specter of antisemitism, and to helping ensure the University be a place in which all members of its community can be themselves and thrive,” Steinberg wrote.

—Staff writer Tilly R. Robinson can be reached at tilly.robinson@thecrimson.com. Follow her on X @tillyrobin.

—Staff writer Neil H. Shah can be reached at neil.shah@thecrimson.com. Follow him on X @neilhshah15.

Want to keep up with breaking news? Subscribe to our email newsletter.

Tags
Central AdministrationFASHillelInterfaculty InitiativesFacultyFaculty NewsIsrael PalestineLeadership Crisis