Jews in America @ the 2013 AJS Conference in Boston, Dec. 15-17

Despite the incredible snow storm in Boston, this year's Association for Jewish Studies conference has begun!  (AJS meets in Boston, MA from Dec. 15-17, 2013) 

THATCamp.  Rumor has it that THATCamp was awesome this year, but since I was trapped for five extra hours in the air due to the storm,  I missed it.  Topics included pedagogy, Omeka, and new methods.

Debates about the Future of Gender Studies.  I did make it, however, to a fabulous discussion about the state of Jewish Women's and Gender Studies that included presentations by Chava Weissler (Lehigh), Americanist Joyce Antler (Brandeis), and Marsha Rozenblit (U. Maryland).  The panel and audience members widely debated the advantages of having a separate division on women and gender versus having papers on gender and women integrated across the conference.  The conversation was sparked by a sea change:  the division on women and gender was disbanded this year due in part to the lack of submissions of abstracts to this division.  (As you will notice below, there were still some papers and panels that dealt with gender, but they were submitted to divisions that reflected people's eras or sub-disciplines.).  I am curious how this experience reflects that at other conferences.

An Americanist President!  AJS also welcomed tonight Jonathan Sarna (Brandeis University) as the society's second illustrious Americanist in a row as President (outgoing President was Jeffrey Shandler of Rutgers).  Sarna is the author or editor of thirty books on Jewish American history and is best known for his critically-acclaimed and award-wining masterpiece, American Judaism: A HistoryHis most recent work has been on Jews and the Civil War, including a superb book on Grant and the Jews.  The presence of scholars of Jewish American history in leadership positions in AJS reflects some changes in the configuration of Jewish Studies and the ongoing recognition of American subject matter for the field overall.

American Panels and Papers.  This is the largest AJS conference to date, and the wealth of Americanist panels and papers reflects the new pool of participants.  Here is a brief list of some of the Americanist topics that will be (or have been) presented (my apologies to any that got left off):


  1. American Hasidic Yiddish Pedagogical Materials: A Survey of 60 Years of Children’s Publishing, *Jordan Kutzik, National Yiddish Book Center
  2. Consuming Continuity and Connectivity: Jewish Food and the Construction of American Jewish Identity, *Ariella Werden Greenfield, Temple University
  3.  Exchanging Symbolic and Bodily Capital: Israeli and American Jews at the Y in NYC, *Dina Roginsky, Yale University
  4. Flower Children of the 1860s: Performance and Religious Re-imagination in American Jewish Confirmation Ceremonies, *Laura Tomes, Georgetown University
  5. Looking Beyond the Women's Movement: Probing the Origins of American Jewish Feminism, *Benjamin Michael Steiner, The Jewish Theological Seminary
  6. Newly Jewish without Conversion: Jews by Personal Choice, *Steven M. Cohen, Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion
  7. RISHES (Malice): Abraham Cahan’s Censorious Attacks on the Writings of Joseph Opatoshu, *Ellen Deborah Kellman, Brandeis University
  8. The Demography of Judaism Outside the Synagogue, *Ariela Keysar, Trinity College
  9. The Great Jewish-American Secular Novelist? Rethinking the Ideology of Secularism in Philip Roth’s Fiction, *Jacques Berlinerblau, Georgetown University
  10. Trading Places: The Word 'Ghetto' Comes to America, *Daniel B. Schwartz, George Washington University
  11. “Let us endeavor to count them up:” Statistics and American Judaism in the Nineteenth Century, *Shari Lisa Rabin, Yale University


  1. (Re-)Forming American Jewry: Postwar Transformations of American Jewishness
  2. 20th Century American Jewish Publishers: as Businesspeople, Idealists, and Gatekeepers.
  3. Changing Configurations: New Understandings of the American Jewish Family 
  4. Habemus Papam: The Pope, the Rabbi, and Jewish-Catholic Dialogue in Latin America
  5. Jewish American Literature and the Archives
  6. Jews as New Americans: Ethnicity, Class, and the Politics of Belonging
  7. Jewish Cinema in Latin America
  8. New Perspectives in American Jewish Economic History
  9. Nineteenth-Century American Jewish Social Models and Movements 
  10. Not Exactly America's Game: A New Look at Jews and Black Baseball
  11. Rabbi Knows Best: The Post-World War II American Rabbi on Kinsey, Kids, and KITSCH
  12. Responses to Moments of Crisis and Transition: American-Jewish Involvement in Poland, 1940-1981
  13. The Politics Behind the Screen: Hollywood and the American Jewish Community in the 1930s and 1940s
  14. The Politics of Civil Society and National Identity: New Perspectives on American Jewish history 
  15. Translating the Jewish Narrative into an American Narrative
  16. Traveling the Jewish World: American Encounters with Global Jewry During and After WWII 


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