Antisemitism – a serious problem in our society

Prof. Dr. Katharina Herkendell
Prof. Dr. Katharina Herkendell is FAU’s new Officer for the Prevention of Antisemitism. (Image: FAU/Georg Pöhlein)

Reacting, taking action and representing FAU – these are the tasks and objectives of FAU’s new Officer for the Prevention of Antisemitism.

Professor Herkendell, you are FAU’s new Officer for the Prevention of Antisemitism. What does this role involve?

The role is extremely varied and we are continuously adapting it to the current situation. My main tasks involve reacting, taking action and representing FAU. Above all, my role involves being a point of contact in the fight against antisemitism, serving as a person of trust for members of the Jewish community at FAU if necessary and following up even the most seemingly insignificant cases of antisemitism. I work closely with liaison officers, security staff, legal specialists and staff at the Office of Equality and Diversity. Taking action includes liaising with professors, Jewish students and researchers from the area and from abroad, as well as collaborating with the Jewish community in the region. There are some great initiatives and projects at FAU and beyond, which I try to support as best I can. My partners and I establish coordination pathways for following up cases of antisemitism and we work with various ministries and NGOs. I also represent FAU at official events and help to assess suspected cases, for example when planning collaborative projects.

This is a new position at FAU. What motivated you to apply and take on the position?

Prof. Jürgen von Oorschot from the School of Theology fulfilled the role of Officer for the Prevention of Antisemitism at FAU for many years. Up to now, the post has served mainly as a mouthpiece and a point of contact to politics. This new position is geared more towards work here on site and was initiated by the Executive Board because of increasing antisemitic sentiment in society and an increase in the number of cases of antisemitism in our midst. I was approached with the offer of the position and I gladly accepted. I like taking on new challenges and this is time well spent. For me, this additional position is very meaningful alongside my work as an assistant professor, where I focus on developing clean technologies in energy process engineering. The fight against hatred towards Jews involves us all, because it concerns us all.

How do you want to perform your duties and what do you hope to achieve?

Firstly, I would like to draw attention to the fact that there is no place for antisemitism at FAU and that we have a zero tolerance policy at the University. We regard antisemitism as a particular and serious problem in our society and take a clear stance against it. Secondly, I would like to reduce the naivety that surrounds the way we deal with people who are antisemitic. And thirdly, each existing and new member of FAU should know that there’s someone who they can turn to. This information needs to be communicated on a regular basis because as we are a university, students come and go every year.

Who can get in touch with you and when?

Anyone can get in touch with me, also if they have concerns about cases that may not be directly related to antisemitism. I will try my best to help and to investigate further. It is particularly important for people to contact me if they know of any cases of antisemitism or vandalism at FAU or if they are directly affected by it, even if they are unsure whether the case in question is antisemitism or not. This also includes providing information about activities by antisemitic groups on our campus. It’s up to each and every one of us as a society to take a zero tolerance stance towards hostility and the exclusion of members of the Jewish community.

In addition, all members of the University can contact me if they need assistance with assessing external partners for research and teaching, for example if they are planning joint projects with the Middle East. I am also very happy to hear from Jewish FAU members, visiting students and researchers and others in the region who are interested in the cause.

Further information:

Prof. Dr. Katharina Herkendell

Phone: +49 911 5302 99032