Understanding Antisemitism: How a New Course at Cornell Law School Explores its History and Legal Significance

New York, NY – A new course at Cornell Law School aims to tackle the issue of antisemitism by examining its historical roots through the lens of the law. Menachem Rosensaft, an adjunct professor of law at Cornell Law School, will teach the course titled “Antisemitism in the Courts and in Jurisprudence” in the upcoming spring semester. The course will be offered to both law students and undergraduates, with the goal of equipping students with the tools to recognize and effectively confront all forms of bigotry.

As the son of two Holocaust survivors, Rosensaft has a personal connection to the subject matter. He believes that it is crucial for students to understand the manifestations of antisemitism and other forms of prejudice in order to combat them effectively. Rosensaft has been teaching a course on the law of genocide and war crimes since 2008, and this new course will expand on the topic by focusing specifically on trials, judicial proceedings, and legislation related to antisemitism.

The course will cover a range of historical cases, including the infamous Dreyfus affair in France during the 1890s, where a Jewish officer, Alfred Dreyfus, was wrongfully convicted of espionage and treason. It will also explore the trial of Leo Frank, a Jewish factory superintendent in Georgia in 1913, who was falsely accused of murder and ultimately lynched by a mob. Additionally, the course will discuss the Nuremberg Race Laws of 1935 in Nazi Germany and contemporary cases of antisemitism.

According to Rosensaft, antisemitism has experienced a global resurgence in recent years, with the Israel-Hamas War intensifying the issue. He emphasizes that while antisemitism shares similarities with other forms of bigotry, it is fundamentally different. Unlike other forms that are based on race, color, religion, or national origin, antisemitism encompasses all of these elements. Rosensaft hopes that by studying historical cases of false accusations against Jews, students will gain a broader understanding of the importance of the law in protecting marginalized communities.

The course will also highlight the parallels between antisemitic laws and other forms of discriminatory legislation throughout history. For example, Rosensaft points out that the Nuremberg Race Laws were inspired by racial miscegenation laws in the United States that prohibited interracial marriage until 1967. By drawing these connections, Rosensaft aims to equip students with the knowledge to recognize and challenge antisemitism if they encounter it in the future.

In conclusion, the course “Antisemitism in the Courts and in Jurisprudence” at Cornell Law School seeks to provide students with the necessary tools to understand antisemitism and its historical context. Through the examination of pivotal cases and legislation, students will be empowered to recognize and combat all forms of bigotry in society. By fostering this understanding, Rosensaft hopes that students will be better equipped to confront antisemitism and protect marginalized communities in the future.