by TRACY ZOLLINGER TURNER
This fall, when Indiana University professor Günther Jikeli was named to an international list of “The Top 100 People Positively Influencing Jewish Life,” he was in good company. Assembled annually by The Algemeiner—a New York City–based newspaper that covers Israel and matters of Jewish interest around the world—the list includes activists, entertainers, CEOs, politicians, Holocaust survivors, religious leaders, journalists, and scholars. This year, it even included two of Jikeli’s personal heroes, Beate and Serge Klarsfeld, famous for conducting research and documentation on Nazis that led to several war crimes prosecutions.
Jikeli, who is originally from Germany, came to IU from France four years ago with his wife, Stéphanie Laparre. He was recently named the Erna B. Rosenfeld professor in Jewish studies at IU and is an associate professor of Jewish studies and Germanic studies.
In naming him to the list, The Algemeiner describes his work as “some of the most crucial research of the post–World War II era on the persistence of antisemitism.” Jikeli collects his data by conducting hundreds of interviews and taking large samplings from social media. “He is then able to study the formation, evolution, and influence of these attitudes—a mission of particular import today, as the world experiences an uptick in animus toward Jews,” write The Algemeiner editors.
“I try to describe things that are not alarmist, but developments over time,” Jikeli says. “As a scholar, you have the privilege to step back a bit, unlike journalistic work. Mostly what I look at is in the imagination of people and what they think Jews are—their projections, which have to do with their psyche. Then I look at what makes these beliefs dangerous.”
Jikeli was invited to the ceremony and gala celebrating the 100 held at Gotham Hall in New York City in September. There, Halina Silber—a Holocaust survivor who was on Schindler’s list—introduced actor Sir Ben Kingsley, who was given an award for his roles in legendary movies with Jewish themes. “Both gave very moving speeches,” Jikeli says. He adds that while none of the politicians and few of the movie stars on the list attended, “a lot of people were there, a lot of whom I admire. It was a fantastic event.”
To see the entire list, visit magbloom.com/algemeiner.