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Divisions & Themes


50 and Forward: Special Anniversary Division

This year, the Association for Jewish Studies will celebrate its 50th anniversary. We would like to take this opportunity to create a space for multiple voices to reflect on the evolution and structure of our professional organization and its place within the fields that constitute it. To facilitate this process, we have decided to replace the wildcard division with a special anniversary division called “50 and Forward.”

We invite panel submissions for this special division, and especially encourage proposals that address the following questions:

  • •  Have the goals of Jewish Studies, founded as a new academic field fifty years ago, shifted significantly, especially vis-a-vis other academic disciplines, the Jewish community, and the broader American public? How have other "ethnic studies" fields differed from or been similar to the trajectory of Jewish studies?

  • •  Should Jewish Studies rethink its audiences on campus, among Jewish communities, and in relation to a larger public? How might we reassess the content and purposes of public programming as a result?

  • •  How could the annual AJS conference, including the programing and current divisional structure, continue to evolve to reflect emerging trends in scholarship, new-media, and professional standards about diversity and inclusion?

  • •  How can Jewish Studies best adapt to the challenges facing the Humanities? How will shifts in higher education and funding impact the growth and sustainability of Jewish Studies in the future?

  • •  What is the future of training scholars in Jewish Studies for the academy and beyond?

AJS Program Committee

Bible and the History of Biblical Interpretation

Literature of the Bible; world of the Bible; early post-Biblical literature (Apocrypha, Pseudepigrapha, Dead Sea Scrolls); interpretation of the Bible from antiquity to modern times; all areas of critical biblical scholarship and history of interpretation

  • • New Archaeological Discoveries – New Biblical Interpretations

  • • Continuum or Discontinuity: Moving from Inner-textual Biblical Interpretation to Rabbinic Exegesis

  • • The Bible at AJS, the Next Fifty Years

Yitzhak Berger & Jonathan Kaplan

Holocaust Studies

The Holocaust Studies division encourages individual papers and panels informed by comparative and interdisciplinary approaches.

  • • Contextualization of the Holocaust in the study of genocide and comparison of the Holocaust with other genocides

  • • Global dimension of the Holocaust

  • • Politicization of the Holocaust in the 21st Century

Gabriel Finder

Interdisciplinary, Theoretical, and New Approaches

This division welcomes proposals that cross geographical, chronological, and disciplinary boundaries; considers theoretical approaches; and new methodologies in Jewish Studies.

  • • Comics and Graphic novels

  • • Disability Studies

  • • Post-Humanism

Barbara Mann & Laura Lieber

Israel Studies

Multi- and interdisciplinary studies of Israeli society, culture, and politics

  • • Comparative or transnational perspectives on the histories, cultures, societies, ideologies, and/or politics of Israel/Palestine

  • • The 70th anniversary of 1948: the making of the Israeli state, 1948 in global context, continuities/ruptures between pre-1948 and post-1948; Independence and Nakba

  • • Reverberations of Israel and Palestine developments in global Jewish communities and of those in global Jewish communities on Israel and Palestine, past and present

  • • What does it mean to study and teach Israel within a Jewish Studies framework? / What is (or should be) the place of Israel, Israel Studies, and/or Israel/Palestine Studies within Jewish Studies?

  • • We welcome panel proposals located at intersections with other divisions, including Hebrew Literature, Holocaust Studies, Sephardi/Mizrahi Studies, History, and Jewish Thought

Liora Halperin

Jewish History and Culture in Antiquity

This division examines the history and culture of the Jews and Judaism in the Persian, Greco-Roman, and Byzantine periods (from the sixth century B.C.E. through seventh century C.E.). We invite scholars to think about the larger historiographic and cultural contexts in which we write and interpret the Jewish past.

For 2018, we would like to suggest the following themes, and also invite you to suggest sessions and individual lectures of your own topic of interest:

  • • Money

  • • Violence

  • • Memory

  • • Reflections on the AJS's 50th anniversary

Gregg Gardner & Annette Reed

Jewish Languages and Linguistics from Antiquity to the Present

Linguistic, semiotic, or philological studies of Hebrew, Yiddish, and other Jewish languages; language instruction in Hebrew, Yiddish, other Jewish languages

  • • Contact and parallels among Jewish languages

  • • The development of Hebrew over the centuries

  • • Jewish language education

Sarah Bunin Benor

Jewish Mysticism

Literature, history, and phenomenology of Jewish mysticism in all periods

The Jewish Mysticism division is looking for proposals on a wide array of topics. It is especially interested in papers or panel proposals relating to the themes below.

  • • Birth and Death

  • • Pivotal and Classic Works of Modern Kabbalah Scholarship

  • • Commentary and Exegesis in Jewish Mystical Creativity

  • • Emotions and the Inner Life

  • • Theologies of Jewish Mysticism

  • • Mysticism and Ethics

  • • Techniques, Practice, Experience

  • • Ritual and Meaning

Eitan Fishbane

Jews, Film, and the Arts

Representation of Judaism and Jews in visual art, film, media, music, theater, and dance; the role of the arts in Jewish history and civilization; Jewish cultural production

  • • Jewish action, art, performance, politics

  • • Jewish film theory; scholarly and pedagogical approaches to Judaism in Film

  • • Jewish media, from ancient to modern, specifically:

  • • the Jewish spectator (focus on viewer instead of artist)

  • • Jewish engagements with public art (not only as artists and spectators but as censors, destroyers, revisionists, copyists, etc).

Olga Gershenson

Medieval and Early Modern Jewish History, Literature, and Culture

Jewish history in Muslim and Christian realms; Jewish literatures including but not limited to belles lettres, piyyut, and exegesis; medieval and early modern Jewish art, artifacts, and architecture

The Division of Medieval and Early Modern History, Literature, and Culture welcomes session and individual paper proposals on all themes. Please keep in mind these evaluation criteria when preparing a proposal.

Paola Tartakoff & David Freidenreich

Medieval Jewish Philosophy

Jewish philosophy and its history in medieval and late medieval times

  • • The Relevance of Medieval Jewish Philosophy: Retrospective and Prospective Views

  • • Conceptions of Nature in Medieval Jewish Philosophy

  • • Medieval Jewish Philosophy and the Cognitive Sciences

Hava Tirosh-Samuelson

Modern Hebrew Literature

Hebrew literature from the Haskalah on, including contemporary Israeli literature

If you are interested in this division, the division chairs encourage you to visit the Modern Literary Studies Paper/Panel Matchmaking Board.

Naomi Brenner & Karen Grumberg

Modern Jewish History in Europe, Asia, Israel, and Other Communities

The Modern Jewish History in Europe, Asia, Israel, and Other Communities division welcomes papers and panels that present case studies of individual Jewish communities in these regions, or that adopt comparative approaches to shed new light on methodological or theoretical themes.

Rebecca Kobrin & John Efron

Modern Jewish History in the Americas

This division seeks proposals that deal with some aspect of Jewish history in the Americas.

  • • Jews and nationalism in the Americas

  • • American Jews and sexuality

  • • Jews in the Americas in the era before mass migration

Melissa Klapper & Kirsten Fermaglich

Modern Jewish Literature and Culture

American Jewish literature; European Jewish literature; modern Sephardic literature; and their cultural contexts

If you are interested in this division, the division chairs encourage you to visit the Modern Literary Studies Paper/Panel Matchmaking Board.

Josh Lambert

Modern Jewish Thought and Theology

Jewish philosophy and thought in modern times; modern Jewish religious movements

Mara Benjamin


The pedagogy division seeks individual papers, panels, or roundtable sessions on issues or themes relevant to the theory and practice of teaching Jewish Studies. The pedagogy division is broad in conception and hopes to generate scholarly conversation about teaching both as it relates to the classroom and to questions of curriculum development in the field of Jewish Studies. For example, we welcome proposals about such issues as: identity in the Jewish Studies classroom, both that of teachers and as students; the "flipped classroom"; "hevruta study" and other teaching technologies in a Jewish Studies classroom; language requirements and the Jewish Studies program; teaching autobiography; teaching Israel, etc.

Sara Horowitz

Pilot Division: Jewish Politics

This division investigates how Jewish identity has been mobilized and deployed in historical and contemporary political debates and struggles; how contemporary politics in various geographical spaces and in various eras have, and do, shape Jewish identity; and how the profession of Jewish Studies contends with politics, particularly around questions of identity, loyalty, and dissent.

  • • How does Jewish identity operate in electoral politics in various domestic political systems?

  • • What is the role of Jewish values and identity in motivating contemporary, non-sectarian political struggles in motivating action around more directly Jewish communal issues (e.g., issues ranging from antisemitism to genetic testing) and in motivating action around a range of responses to Zionism and the politics of Israel-Palestine?

  • • What claims does the State of Israel make on Diaspora and Israeli Jewish identity and politics?

  • • How does power, identity and representation operate in Jewish communal spaces and in Jewish art forms, including film and literature?

  • • What kinds of challenges and opportunities face Jewish Studies scholars when they step into the the realm of public engagement, and how does public commentary and social media engagement feed back onto Jewish Studies scholarship?

  • • Has the dependence of Jewish Studies as a field on donors affected Jewish Studies scholarship and teaching, and what is the relationship between objectivity, neutrality and political and value-based commitments?


Hasia Diner, Joshua Shanes, & Mira Sucharov

Rabbinic Literature and Culture

We encourage the submission of papers in the following areas: Talmudic Law, Midrash, Aggadah as well as analyses of Rabbinic texts from the end of the Second Temple through the time of the Geonim. Please note: this division is historically delineated. It recognizes that some proposals may touch on aspects of the Second Temple period and/or medieval Jewry, but submissions that focus primarily on the Second Temple period or the medieval era or later should be submitted to other divisions. Please contact the Division Chairs for recommendations of appropriate placement.

Tzvi Novick & Charlotte Fonrobert

Sephardi/Mizrahi Studies

The Sephardi/Mizrahi Studies division seeks submissions that are area specific and interdisciplinary on the history and culture of Sephardi and Mizrahi Jewry. The division also encourages scholars to propose sessions that bring together junior and senior faculty.

Devin Naar & Adriana Brodsky

Social Science

Sociology, anthropology, folklore, political science, and social psychology as applied to Jewish communities

Bruce Phillips

Yiddish Studies

Yiddish literature and its history

We would like to encourage a comparatist approach to Yiddish in the context of other literary traditions. For example:

  • • Interrelations (including translation) between Yiddish, Hebrew, and other languages and literatures;

  • • Travel narratives in Yiddish, Hebrew, and other languages;

  • • Reconsidering Yiddish literary history (e.g., in relation to Hebrew literature and Zionism).

    If you are interested in this division, the division chairs encourage you to visit the Modern Literary Studies Paper/Panel Matchmaking Board.

Ken Frieden