Fighting Antisemitism through Scholarship - JFM Fund helps to Sustain CISA

by Stu Slayen | Mar 19, 2019
Catherine Chatterley first heard about the Holocaust as a young girl growing up in a Lutheran family in St. Vital and Fort Richmond. She was immediately horrified and puzzled.

“The first adult book I read was The Diary of Anne Frank,” says Chatterley. “The Holocaust was a mystery to me and I wanted to know how it could have happened.”

Her youthful curiosity ultimately led to a PhD in history from the University of Chicago and international recognition as an expert in antisemitism. Today she is an instructor at the University of Manitoba, the Founding Director of the Canadian Institute for the Study of Antisemitism (CISA), and the Editor-in-Chief of Antisemitism Studies, CISA’s flagship publication published by Indiana University Press.

Chatterley founded CISA in 2010. It is an independent, non-profit entity with charitable status. Through donors, CISA is able to publish the journal, produce the Shindleman Lectures, offer free public courses, participate in international conferences, and develop new initiatives to advance the study of antisemitism.

CISA’s endowment fund at the Jewish Foundation of Manitoba is a key piece of CISA’s financial sustainability. With significant contributions from Marjorie Blankstein and MaryAnn Kanee, and a number of other key gifts, the fund sits at nearly $600,000. “The Jewish community has been really supportive and I appreciate that,” says Chatterley. “As the fund grows, I will be able to spend less time fundraising and more time on the substance of my work.”

For Chatterley, that substance is all about conducting and gathering the type of research that informs decision-makers, changes policy, and changes minds. Since World War II, she notes, the Jewish community has focused on interfaith dialogue, human rights advocacy, and Holocaust education as tools to fight antisemitism. Perhaps still necessary, she says, but by no means sufficient.

“The great hope was that Holocaust education would help people see the impact of hatred,” says Chatterley. “I don’t have a lot of faith in that approach. Conventional Holocaust education tends to universalize the Shoah, which in fact takes the focus off of antisemitism.  

“What we need is scholarship: research, data collection, interviews, studies, and other activities that help people understand antisemitism at a deep level so that we can address it,” she says.