December 17, 2021
2021 continues to be a tumultuous, difficult year, and we’re sensitive to the fact that there are many of you whose travel plans to Chicago have changed. We are thinking of all of you. We would also like to remind you that unfortunately, this year's conference is in-person only and is not available via Zoom.
We are excited to move forward with the conference in Chicago, but we are implementing a few additional protocols. We now ask that participants wear their masks at all times, even when speaking, and we are working with the hotel to set up event rooms in a way that will allow for social distancing.
Our members are our priority. We hope that you will join us in Chicago, but for those of you who are unable or unwilling to travel, we will refund your registration fees (minus a $20 cancellation fee/$10 student cancellation fee) or accept your registration fees as a donation to the AJS. Please complete this form by Sunday, December 19, at 5:00 pm to let us know your preference. We ask that you complete this form even if you have already notified us via email about your change of plans.
The AJS’s mission is “to advance research and teaching in Jewish Studies at colleges, universities, and other institutions of higher learning, and to foster greater understanding of Jewish Studies scholarship among the wider public." This mission guides our decisions, and when thinking about how to implement our mission, we turn to our core values: Academic integrity and scholarly excellence, academic and intellectual freedom, community, diversity and inclusiveness, ethical conduct, exemplary service to members, and good faith. We are keeping these values in mind as we navigate these difficult and changing times.
We hope to see you in Chicago, but whatever your plans are this weekend, we are excited to continue working with and learning from you.
August 5, 2021
The safety of our members is our priority; the AJS staff and leadership continue to monitor the current state of the COVID-19 pandemic and work with medical experts and other learned societies to consider best practices for this December's conference. It is too early for us to announce the specific COVID-related changes for our event in December. We will continue to watch the situation and collect data, but at this time, the AJS has no plans to change its December conference from an in-person event.
We understand that the various uncertainties in different parts of the world may make it difficult for some members to plan for December. Here are some precautions that will likely be utilized at the conference; we will continue to update the membership as the situation evolves.
Vaccinations: Participating attendees will need to provide proof of vaccination to attend.
Masks: All attendees are required to wear masks in all public spaces, including meeting rooms, with two exceptions: 1) Presenters may remove their mask when they are making their presentation; 2) Attendees may remove their mask when they are actively eating or drinking.
Should you find that you can no longer attend the conference, here is some information about cancellation:
AJS Registration fees: All registration fees and meals can be refunded in full until August 30, 2021. From August 31, 2021 until November 13, 2021, the AJS will provide full refunds and waive the cancellation fee for people who need to cancel for reasons related to the pandemic; all other conference registration fees can be refunded in full, minus a $20 fee ($10 for grad students and contingent faculty). Learn more about registration and cancellation policies.
Hotel: Your reservation at the conference hotel can be changed or cancelled up until 72 hours prior to check-in without any penalty. By booking at the conference hotel you have access to the AJS’s discounted rates and this cancellation policy. Learn more about booking a hotel room and cancellation policies.
Airfare: You should check with your airline, but many airlines continue to offer flexible tickets including providing credit to be used at a later date should you choose not to fly.
Travel insurance: The AJS does not endorse any of these policies but you may want to consider purchasing travel insurance that covers COVID-related issues: Best Pandemic (COVID) Travel Insurance August 2021 – Forbes Advisor
Why can’t we just have another online conference?
If the AJS were to cancel its in-person conference right now, we would be liable to the hotel for $171,134 in penalties plus an additional $50,000 for the costs of an online system. The AJS is not in a position to spend its limited reserves on $220,000 of penalties and new costs without sacrificing other programs like its publications, fellowships, and professional development opportunities as well as reducing its staff. We only could invoke the force majeure clause of our contract to avoid this penalty if the meeting was prohibited due to a lockdown or group size restriction.
Why can’t I just present remotely?
While this might seem easy in theory, the technological logistics of pulling this off are complex and costly for a number of reasons. Rooms would have to be equipped with screens, complex a/v packages, and hard-wired internet, which would cost an additional $100,000. Furthermore, if the majority of members decide to present remotely, not only is the overall in-person conference experience degraded, but also the AJS will incur a large penalty for failing to meet its contractual room or food and beverage minimums.
While the Delta variant is indeed concerning, the good news is that vaccines are working. While there have been breakthrough cases of COVID in vaccinated individuals, the overwhelming majority of these cases have resulted in asymptomatic or minimally symptomatic manifestations of the disease.
We are still four months from the conference and, as we’ve seen in the last 18 months, a lot can change quickly. We remain optimistic that things will be in a better place by the time our conference begins. We will continue to monitor the situation and keep you updated about our decision-making process. Thank you for your understanding.
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