INDIANAPOLIS – Alvin Rosenfeld, a distinguished scholar of Jewish literature and Holocaust studies at Indiana University who founded the university’s pioneering Borns Jewish Studies Program and Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism, has received the IU President’s Medal for Excellence.
Rosenfeld received the award from IU President Michael A. McRobbie during a special ceremony on April 28, honoring Rosenfeld’s 50 years at IU and many contributions to the university and his academic field. The medal, which reproduces in silver the jewel of office worn by IU’s president on ceremonial occasions, is the highest honor an IU president can bestow.
Rosenfeld is the Irving M. Glazer Chair in Jewish Studies and a professor of English in IU Bloomington’s College of Arts and Sciences, and he served for 30 years as the founding director of IU’s renowned Robert A. and Sandra S. Borns Jewish Studies Program. He is also founding director of the Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism, one of the only university programs of its kind in the U.S.
“Alvin is renowned for his depth of knowledge of Jewish history and literature, as well as for his informed understanding of the Jewish experience in America and around the world,” McRobbie said. “His expertise in Holocaust literature, American Jewish literature, exile literature and contemporary antisemitism has helped shape two of Indiana University’s most vibrant academic centers.
“Over the course of 30 years, Alvin built an outstanding program in Jewish studies, renowned not only for its academic rigor but for its supportive and inspiring intellectual environment. And the outstanding scholarship in which Alvin and his colleagues at the Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism are engaged helps us educate our students, the communities we serve and the broader public about both the history of antisemitism and its contemporary resurgence. All of us at IU are proud that the institute is an integral part of that vital effort.”
Rosenfeld established the Borns Jewish Studies Program in 1973, making IU one of the first public institutions to offer such a program. Over the course of his three decades at the helm, he helped elevate the program to one of the most successful in the world. Since its founding, the program has granted more degrees in Jewish studies than any nondenominational university in the U.S.
IU’s Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism was established in 2009 under the auspices of the Borns Program. Under his leadership, the institute has featured an active program of courses, lectures, conferences and publications on present-day manifestations of anti-Jewish animosity. In March, the institute hosted its fourth global conference on contemporary antisemitism, which featured nearly 60 scholars from 15 countries.
A Ph.D. graduate of Brown University, Rosenfeld is the author, co-author or editor of nine highly influential books, including ”Thinking About the Holocaust: After Half a Century,” “Resurgent Antisemitism: Global Perspectives” and “A Double Dying: Reflections on Holocaust Literature.”
Rosenfeld has served on many national and international boards involved in communicating, teaching and memorializing the Holocaust and its impact. He was appointed in 2002 by U.S. President George W. Bush to the governing council of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, and he served as longtime chair of the academic committee of the museum’s Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies.
In December, he was named a senior fellow at the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights, a Montreal-based international consortium of government officials, scholars, jurists, students and others dedicated to pursuing justice through the protection and promotion of human rights.
Throughout his tenure at IU, he has given generously to the program he helped found. Most recently, as part of the For All: The Indiana University Bicentennial Campaign, Rosenfeld endowed both a scholarship and a professorship in memory of his late wife, Erna, for the study of post-Holocaust antisemitism. The professorship is the first of its kind at any university in the U.S.