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Critical Conversations 2023

Critical Conversations 2023

Spertus Institute's Critical Conversations 2023 Program Will Address Rising Antisemitism

Presented in person and online Monday, February 20 at 7 PM CT

In response to a troubling global increase in antisemitism, along with other forms of bias and hatred, the Chicago-based Spertus Institute will present Critical Conversations: Combating Antisemitism on Monday, February 20 at 7 pm (CT). Critical Conversations is an annual Spertus program that brings together high-profile experts and activists to address the most critical issues of the day; this year’s event will focus on antisemitism – its current manifestations and what can be done to combat it, both within and beyond Jewish communities.

Critical Conversations: Combating Antisemitism will be presented both in person (at Spertus Institute, 610 S. Michigan Avenue, Chicago) and online. Tickets are $18 for the in-person program, while online participation will be offered at no charge. Advance reservations are required for all attendees and can be made at

According to the Pew Research Center, six-in-ten American Jews report having had a personal experience with antisemitism in the previous year, ranging from seeing antisemitic vandalism to experiencing direct harassment. The Anti-Defamation League tabulated 2,717 antisemitic incidents in the US in 2021, representing a 34% increase from 2020 and the highest number since ADL began tracking in 1979.

"Rising antisemitism targets the very fabric of our communities, as do all forms of bias and hatred," explained Spertus Institute President & CEO Dr. Dean P. Bell, who will moderate the program. In addition to his role at Spertus, Dr. Bell served as Associate Editor of the two-volume Antisemitism: A Historical Encyclopedia of Prejudice and Persecution.

He continued, "Building the skills to combat antisemitism requires understanding our current climate in both an historical and contemporary context, and so we have gathered four important voices to share their distinct and valuable insights: Dr. Dov Waxman, an internationally recognized expert on contemporary antisemitism and American Jewry’s relationship with Israel; Dr. Miriam F. Elman, an authority on antisemitism and anti-Israel activities on college campuses; Nancy K. Kaufman, an advisor for SRE Network, a group of 150+ Jewish organizations committed to safety, respect, and equity; and Dr. Lila Corwin Berman whose research at Temple University examines the history of Jewish citizenship in the United States.

“In the Middle Ages, Jews were hated for their religion; in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, they were hated for their race,” said Dr. Elman, a thought leader on the impact antisemitism on college campuses and within academia. Today, she reports, support or perceived support for Israel is often a driver. “We see it when three age-old stereotypes of Jews are projected onto the entire nation of Israel: the lust for power and control, the lust for blood, and the portrayal of Jews as animals, inferior to non-Jews.”

Spertus Institute Critical Conversations 2023 Speakers

About the 2023 Critical Conversations Presenters

Dr. Miriam F. Elman is Executive Director of the Academic Engagement Network, a DC-based organization that counters antisemitism and anti-Israel activities on college campuses. In 2018, she was named by Algemeiner as one of “the top 100 people positively influencing Jewish life.” 

Dr. Dov Waxman is an internationally recognized expert on contemporary antisemitism and American Jewry’s relationship with Israel. He is a political science professor at UCLA and writes for publications including the Washington Post, Guardian, and Atlantic

Nancy K. Kaufman served for many years as CEO of the National Council of Jewish Women and Executive Director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Boston. She is an advisor for SRE Network, a group of 150+ Jewish organizations committed to safety, respect, and equity. 

Dr. Lila Corwin Berman is a professor of history at Temple University, where she directs the Feinstein Center for American Jewish History. Her research examines the history of Jewish citizenship in the United States. 

Spertus Institute Initiative to Combat Antisemitism

Acknowledging that Jewish leaders need tools and training to respond to the troubling rise in antisemitism, Spertus Institute has launched the Leadership Certificate in Combating Antisemitism with an inaugural cohort of 17 Jewish community executives and senior professionals from across North America.

"Jewish communal leaders are increasingly called upon to address complex and nuanced situations that require them to combine experience, awareness of context, and new ways of thinking," notes Spertus Institute Dean & Chief Academic Officer Dr. Keren Fraiman. "Providing the knowledge and skills to navigate these challenging times is the goal of the Leadership Certificate and the Critical Conversations program."

This year’s Critical Conversations is scheduled during the program’s onsite Chicago seminar and the Critical Conversations’ panelists will be holding workshops for students as members of their faculty team. This overlap gives members of the public the opportunity to join the cohort’s students, in person or online, to gain insight on the issue of antisemitism and explore what they can do to make a difference.

Critical Conversations is generously funded by the late Eric Joss with support from AllianceBernstein and Levenfeld Pearlstein. This year’s program is Spertus Institute’s Tulsky Presentation on the Jewish Future. Past events in the series have focused on issues including climate change, race, and immigration.

The Certificate is a program of Spertus Institute's Center for Jewish Leadership, supported in part by a generous grant from the Crown Family.

Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning & Leadership: Strengthening Jewish Life Since 1924

For nearly 100 years, Spertus Institute has explored the wisdom in Jewish thought, text, and experiences—and their relevance for today’s world and our shared future. At the institution’s core are advanced degree and certificate programs through which students engage with Jewish ideas in the service of their personal and professional advancement. These offerings are complemented by programs in an array of formats for people of all backgrounds. Spertus Institute is a partner with the Jewish United Fund in serving our community. For more information about Critical Conversations, the new Leadership Certificate in Combating Antisemitism, or any other Spertus Institute programming, please visit

Tuesday, January 17, 2023