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Professor creating endowment to study anti-Semitism

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Bonnie Burstow

Anti-Semitism is on the rise worldwide and Prof. Bonnie Burstow believes the academic study of the phenomenon has been lacking in recent years. So the faculty member at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE) at the University of Toronto is in the process of creating a $50,000 endowment fund for a “perennial scholarship,” to help students who wish to study the subject.

Burstow is contributing $25,000 of her own money towards the scholarship, to be called the Bonnie Burstow Scholarship for Research into Anti-Semitism. She is looking to double that amount with $5,000 contributions from five members of the community, so that a $50,000 endowment will be put in place to create a permanent source of funds for a scholarship.

“All types of anti-Semitism research qualify for the award, including historical anti-Semitism, current anti-Semitism, anti-Semitism from the right, anti-Semitism from the left, religious-based anti-Semitism, secular anti-Semitism, general societal anti-Semitism, specifically academic anti-Semitism, anti-Semitism committed by communities with privilege and anti-Semitism committed by other oppressed communities,” Burstow stated.

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The study of anti-Semitism has fallen somewhat off the radar at OISE, Burstow told The CJN. At the same time, it’s becoming more of an issue.

“This is my attempt to get it back at OISE,” to “shift it back into an area of interest. I think this is really important in a period of escalating anti-Semitism,” she said.

Karen Mock, a human rights consultant and former executive director of the Canadian Race Relations Foundation, applauded Burstow’s efforts.

“I was very pleased to hear about Prof. Burstow’s endowing a scholarship at OISE for a student to conduct research into anti-Semitism, because in recent years, the study of anti-Semitism has been marginalized in academia, particularly in the social justice area. While anti-Semitism is increasing worldwide, academics and educators tend to minimize it, or even reject it completely as anti-Jewish oppression,” said Mock.

“This scholarship will provide incentive for studying anti-Semitism and hopefully will change the discourse. It announces to the academy that anti-Semitism is a serious matter, the study of which is desperately needed. It needs to be named, exposed, understood and countered by educators, along with all other forms of discrimination and hate.”

Burstow said that, “This scholarship has already been approved by OISE and it is in the process of going through the University of Toronto approval process.”

If everything goes smoothly and the money is raised in the next few months, income from the investment could be  available at the start of the 2020-21 academic year, she said.

Burstow said this is the fifth scholarship she’s created, three of which are at the University of Toronto.

It’s uncommon for faculty members to create endowment funds, she acknowledged.

“Because I keep doing it, I tend to forget that it is very rare. Where awards are created in relation to faculty, generally someone else does this after the faculty person is dead. Faculty rarely spend their money on creating awards. I am passionately committed to the importance of creating scholarships in the areas that I (see) as part of my being an educator in the area – hence my proceeding very differently,” she said.

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