By: Nissim Farhy  | 

MIT Professor Joins YU Due to School’s Inaction Combating Campus Antisemitism

A former computer science professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) joined Yeshiva University as a visiting faculty member last month, following his stepping down due to widespread antisemitism at the university in December.

Mauricio Karchmer, an expert in theoretical computer science and quantitative finance who taught electrical engineering, algorithms and computer science to over 700 students at MIT annually, will be teaching math for computer science at Yeshiva College (YC), along with portfolio management at the Sy Syms School of Business (SSSB) next semester. 

Born in Mexico to Holocaust survivors, Karchmer pursued his master’s from Harvard and his doctorate from Hebrew University in computer science. After working as a teacher’s assistant in MIT, Karchmer transitioned to finance where he specialized in portfolio design and risk management for twenty years, before returning to MIT. Now at Yeshiva University, he aims to blend his expertise in finance and computer science into a unique course offering. The goal is for “students to [be able to] teach computer science and finance to one another,” Karchmer said during his inaugural fireside chat with President Ari Berman. 

In 2019, Karchmer returned to MIT, to what he called his “dream job”  of teaching computer science, where his Introduction to Algorithms course was taken by over 60% of undergraduate students. However, the university's response to Hamas’s attack on Oct. 7 led Karchmer to resign two months after the incident.

“I did not hear much from non-Jewish staff or faculty,” Karchmer told The Commentator. “Not to see if my family in Israel were OK, not to offer any sympathy, and certainly not to express any concerns about what some of the student groups were doing.”

Despite not usually vocalizing his Jewish identity, Hamas’s attack on Oct. 7 led Karchmer to call for a public statement from MIT, as it had done on past issues such as the murder of George Floyd and the 2021 spike in anti-Asian hate crime. MIT’s statement, which expressed “horror” at the “violence against civilians,” failed to specifically reference Hamas or the details of the October 7th attack. Additionally, several faculty members liked or wrote posts  in celebration of the Hamas attack and the subsequent pro-Palestinian protests on campus.

Prior to her congressional testimony, Karchmer urged the president of MIT, Sally Kornbluth to speak out in support of Jewish students. “They want to hear that the institute is with them,” he wrote. Karchmer told The Commentator that his initial reaction to the hearing, during which three university presidents, including Kornbluth, refused to acknowledge whether calling for the genocide of Jews violated their university policies was “bewilderment.” “They had an opportunity to show leadership and they clearly let that opportunity pass.” 

Karchmer abruptly resigned from his job in December of 2023. “I cannot continue teaching algorithms to those who lack the most basic critical thinking skills or emotional intelligence,” he told The Free Press. “Nor can I teach those who condemn my Jewish identity or my support for Israel’s right to exist in peace with its neighbors.” 

Following his public resignation, Karchmer received numerous offers of employment from universities across Israel and the United States. However, after meeting with Yeshiva University, he chose to join their faculty, as a visiting faculty, in early February. “YU is a university rooted in everlasting Jewish religious values,” he told The Commentator, “which align with humanistic values and resonate with me, even as a secular Jew.”

“There are moments in time when history invites us to participate in its unfolding,” Berman said. “This is such a moment, and Dr. Karchmer has shown by his voice, actions and moral clarity how to be a leader who is a world-class professor in his field and a role model to us all.”