Bryan Schwartzman, The Jewish Exponent
December 7, 2011
The Journal for the Study of Anti-Semitism may lack color, eye-popping graphics or gripping storytelling. But the scholarly journal is not meant to have any of those things, according to the editors.
Instead the little-known, biannual publication -- which is now in its third year and typically exceeds 300 pages -- features sober historical analysis, expository essays and book reviews on topics ranging from the anti-Semitic elements of Richard Wagner's operas to the influence of Nazi ideology on radical Islam.
"If you read The New York Times and The Philadelphia Inquirer, they tell you what is happening now, but they don't give you the historical context," said Neil Rosenberg, a 60-year-old resident of Cherry Hill, N.J., who serves as the co-editor of the independent journal.
"Thousands and thousands of articles have been written about the Holocaust," added Rosenberg, who does some editing and fundraises for the publication. "But modern anti-Semitism -- every day, you pick up the newspaper, there is something else happening."
Rosenberg is a defense attorney in private practice in Marlton, N.J. His office serves as the journal's mailing address, though it is primarily an online operation.
He's not a professional academic, but seven years ago, he completed a master's degree in Holocaust and genocide studies at Richard Stockton College in Galloway, N.J., not far from Atlantic City. Long interested in Jewish affairs, at age 50, he decided to dedicate his spare time to studying the why and how of the Holocaust.
On a Stockton-sponsored tour of several death camps in Eastern Europe, Rosenberg met Steven K. Baum, a psychologist with a private practice in Albuquerque, N.M. Baum also engages in scholarship and wrote a book, published in 2008 by Cambridge University Press, called The Psychology of Genocide: Perpetrators, Bystanders and Rescuers.
The two kept in touch, and Baum later told Rosenberg he was having trouble finding a university-sponsored journal to publish an article he'd written delving into anti-Semitism in the Muslim world.
Eventually, the two editors concluded that although there's a mountain of scholarship on anti-Semitism, there was no academic journal in the English language solely devoted to the study of the subject. They decided to publish one themselves.
Within the academy, the study of anti-Semitism really took off in the aftermath of the Holocaust, when scholars hoped to comprehend how such evil sprang from the world's most civilized society, according to Kenneth Marcus, who sits on the journal's board and is a former staff director at the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.
Today -- as anti-Semitism appears to be resurgent -- there are numerous scholars and a handful of academic centers throughout the world focusing on the topic. But it's not considered a particularly popular or politically correct area of focus, said Marcus, who is in the process of starting the Washington, D.C.-based Louis D. Brandeis Center, which will focus on campus anti-Semitism.
"Many academics on the political left are suspicious of the study of anti-Semitism because so much of contemporary anti-Semitism arises from Arab and Muslim countries," he said.
Some have contended that Yale University's program on anti-Semitism was shuttered last year because of its focus on Muslim anti-Semitism, though the university cited a lack of academic rigor.
Marcus said that although Rosenberg and Baum have "a very limited budget and no formal university affiliation," they "have been able to make an impact on the study of anti-Semitism."
The two editors reached out to several dozen scholars -- including Marcus, Holocaust historian Michael Berenbaum and Middle East Forum founder Daniel Pipes -- to serve on the journal's board and to help pass judgment on submitted and solicited articles.
Baum said the journal walks a fine line between objectivity and advocacy since it has a fealty to scholarship and statistics but is also unabashedly Zionist.
"We are going to publish pro-Israel and pro-Jewish articles," he said.
Baum added that it takes about $5,000 to publish each issue, which goes toward a line editor, maintaining a website (www.jsantisemitism.org) and producing a downloadable PDF of each issue. Only about 30 copies are printed and generally go to board members and contributors. Rosenberg said the site gets between 5,500 and 6,500 hits a year from users in 67 nations.
According to Marcus, the journal will soon be searchable on the Lexus Nexus database, which will make it more widely available to scholars.
The journal has started using guest editors to oversee particular issues; those guests then solicit about a half-dozen articles on their area of expertise to be used in the journal. The most recent edition was guest edited by Simon Samuels, the director of international relations for the Simon Wiesenthal Centre in Paris, and focused on anti-Semitism in Latin America.
The forthcoming issue, expected to come out in January, is being guest edited by Marcus and will look at anti-Semitism on campus. Articles will focus on liberal anti-Semitism, Holocaust denial and a spate of anti-Israel incidents at California universities.
Rosenberg said the story of the journal's founding is about what two people can accomplish when they set their minds to it -- especially with a little help from technology.
"Without the Internet, the costs would be astronomical," Rosenberg added. "It's great to have a purpose -- and enjoy yourself while you are going about it."