I always tell people that I became an academic so I could stay in college forever, and while that is (mostly) a joke, it is true that "summer vacation" is one of the major perks of the job. I am lucky enough to have considerable freedom in choosing how to spend the months from late April to late August. And yet, as we all know, when being in college is your job, summer is not really a vacation. The choice is less about beach vs. pool, more about research vs. writing, and yet I have done my best to include all of the above in my summer plans. I try to remind myself that productivity is important, but so is relaxation after a long academic year of teaching, serving on committees, going to conferences, planning events, and balancing all of the other demands on my time as an assistant professor and director of the Pearlstine/Lipov Center for Southern Jewish Culture.
Over a year ago, as my institution’s lengthy grant application period began and I contemplated how I wanted to spend this summer - my second on the tenure track - I decided to go to New York City for a few reasons. First, I wanted to spend time poking around documents at the Center for Jewish History as I work towards my second book project. Second, I received generous funding from the College of Charleston and from the Hadassah-Brandeis Institute, which made it possible for me to go (thank you to both!). Third, I used to live in Brooklyn and I wanted to spend my off-hours seeing friends and experiencing the exciting cultural events that only New York City can offer. Take my first full week: last-minute tickets to see Bette Midler in "Hello, Dolly,” an illuminating conference on “Migrations, Past and Present” hosted by NYU and Columbia, trying New York’s latest food trend, DŌ (no lie, it is a shop that sells uncooked cookie dough), and one-on-one time with the records of the United Hebrew Charities of New York. In my book, that is a great week!
As I write this, I am two weeks into my time in New York. It has certainly not been without its challenges – ongoing writing and service obligations do not take a break just because I am in the archives – and yet, I have made some good progress in thinking about the sources, difficulties, and possibilities of my new project. I am also looking ahead to later in the summer. After a stint back in Charleston, planning for the fall and trying to beat the excruciating heat and humidity of July in the lowcountry, I will be off to Jerusalem for the World Congress of Jewish Studies. I look forward to presenting and to learning from my colleagues about their research, and I hope I will see many of my AJS colleagues there!
Shari Rabin is Assistant Professor of the Yaschik/Arnold Jewish Studies Program and Director of the Pearlstine/Lipov Center for Southern Jewish Culture at the College of Charleston.