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Sessions Seeking Participants/Papers Seeking Sessions

AJS 49th Annual Conference
December 17-19, 2017
Marriott Marquis Washington, DC

The deadline for submitting proposals for the AJS 49th Annual Conference has passed. Notifications will be sent out early August regarding the status of proposals.

If you would like to post a session or paper idea to the list below, please send an e-mail to the AJS at with your name and contact information (e-mail and/or phone number) and a brief description of the paper, session, or topic you wish to explore.

If you would like to join one of the below session proposals, please contact the session organizer directly. Please note that expressing interest in joining a session proposal does not guarantee a place in the session proposal, nor acceptance of your proposal by the AJS; session organizers will contact you directly if they wish to include your proposal in their session. The session proposal will then be submitted to the AJS and evaluated by Division Chairs and the Program Committee, as would any other session proposal.

If you would like to develop a session around one of the paper ideas, please contact the organizer/author directly at the email address or phone number provided.

Session Ideas (Roundtables, Seminars, Panels, Meetings)

Paper Ideas

Session Ideas (Roundtables, Seminars, Panels, Meetings)

Submitted by:

Corinne Blackmer

Andrew Pessin

Anti-Jewish Animus on Campus

Incidents of anti-Jewish animus—whether manifested as classic antisemitism or, more controversially, as anti-Zionism—are increasingly common on American college campuses. These include everything from hate crimes, vandalism and graffiti, hostile BDS campaigns, harassment of or threats against Israeli/Jewish speakers on topics pertaining to Israel/Jewishness, and openly antisemitic speech, activism, and protests. These acts would be roundly condemned by administration and faculty were they sexist, racist, xenophobic, or homophobic in character, but in fact when they target Israel (or Israel-supporting Jews) they are widely tolerated or even supported in the name of free speech. Building on our forthcoming volume, Totalitarians at the Gate: The BDS Assault on Freedom of Speech and the University (Indiana UP), we wish to consider questions regarding when and how anti-Zionism transforms into antisemitism, and freedom of speech into hate speech. We solicit proposals from academics who been the objects of or who have participated as protestors against recent incidents of anti-Semitism on American college/university campuses.  We envision proposals consisting of a brief narrative of what happened and who was involved (and in what capacity if participants feel free to share), followed by a succinct analysis or theorization of the relevant issues involved in the incident(s).  Questions can be addressed to and proposals of 350-500 words sent to and

Submitted by:

Roslyn Weiss

Hasdai Crescas

I would like to propose a session on Hasdai Crescas. Papers on Crescas's works as well as on influences on him or his influences on others are most welcome. If anyone is interested, please contact me: Roslyn Weiss,

Submitted by:

Joshua B. Friedman

Moshe Kornfeld

Jews and Whiteness in Trump’s America

In the wake of Donald Trump’s surprising 2017 presidential election victory, a new conversation about Jewish identity has begun to unfold in the United States. Trump’s election has unleashed a wave of public anti-Semitism that most American Jews had assumed belonged to the past. His campaign’s notorious use of anti-Semitic “dog whistles,” his staffers’ penchant for retweeting white supremacists, and the prominent role of Steven Bannon in the Trump administration have all empowered anti-Semites on the so-called “alt-right,” pushing their views closer to the mainstream. These trends have shaken the American Jewish community to its core, unsettling long-standing, hegemonic narratives about the Jewish acquisition of white racial identity. “Are Jews White?” journalist Emma Green asked about Jewish identity after Trump in a December 2016 issue of the Atlantic Monthly. Pundits, communal leaders, and social scientists have attempted to address this question in a variety of ways, raising new questions and reassessing old ones in the process. Is anti-Semitism a problem primarily with one or the other “side” of the political spectrum? To what extent does questioning Jewish racial status mask the benefits Jews experience as a result of white privilege? How do we account for the systemic nature of the anti-Semitism currently on display on the American right, and how does it relate to the wider context of xenophobia, racism, and homophobia in the United States? What, in short, can the rise of Donald Trump and the racist alt-right movement tell us about Jewish difference in the United States today?

Submitted by:

Amy Milligan

Jewish Folklore

I am looking to collaborate with other Jewish folklorists to put together a session on Jewish folklore. Depending on disciplines, this could go in several different directions, but my research areas concentrate on gendered folklore, material culture, and bodylore. One potential topic might be subversive folkloric religious responses, although I am happy to collaborate and work together to form a panel which would represent the presenters’ interests.

Submitted by:

Yitzhak Lewis

Afterlives of a Zadik: Hasidic Writing and its Lingering Effects on Modern Jewish Literature

Familiar themes in the study of modern Jewish literature (both Hebrew and Yiddish) include secularization and modernization, tradition and custom, rupture and continuity, translation and multilingualism, competing languages, assimilation, acculturation, and the interrelations between literature and nationalism. Also well known and frequently studied are the complex relations between “modern Jewish literature,” commonly dated from Avraham Mapu in Hebrew and S. Y. Abramovitsh in Yiddish, and its self-identified precursor, the “Haskalah literature.” Within this standard self-proclaimed historiography, the role of Hasidic literature as a shared referent for both the Haskalah and "modern" literature has not received its due attention. As Ken Frieden has noted recently, the classical historiography of modern Jewish literature “has too often been represented as a straight line from Enlightenment authors’ melitza to ‘Mendele’s nusah’.” Frieden has added that in order to move beyond “this one-dimensional geometry,” we need to turn our gaze to “additional lines of development.”

It is our contention that a comprehensive account of Jewish literary modernity, and a deep appreciation of its aesthetic and ideological aspirations, is not possible without recognizing the role played by the literature of the Hasidic movement. The defining themes of Jewish literary modernity, both ideologically and aesthetically are, in an important and unrecognized sense, afterlives of a textual-political-aesthetic moment that found its expression in the texts and teachings of Hasidism. Such an "additional line" connecting Hasidism to its literary successors is not hard to identify: from Abramovitsh and I. L. Peretz, through writers as varied as Der Nister and Kafka, and all the way to Bashevis Singer and Sh. Y. Agnon, the major modern Jewish writers have signaled the Hasidic movement as a precursor to their own preoccupations.

This seminar seeks to explore a wide range of trajectories that lead from Hassidic writing to modern Jewish literature. Possible themes include (but are not limited to):

  • The influence of Hasidic writing on particular authors
  • The literary potentials and/or aesthetic innovations of Hasidic writing itself
  • Reading Hasidic writing as literature
  • Literature and Religion in the context of Hasidic writing and/or modern literature
  • Hasidic writing and multilingualism

Please send 250–300 word proposals and inquiries to Yitzhak Lewis:

Submitted by:

Victoria Khiterer

Jewish Migration and Modern Jewish Life in the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union

I would like to organize a panel for the 2017 AJS Conference (December 17-19, 2017, Washington, DC) on Jewish Migration and Modern Jewish Life in the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union. I am going to present my paper "The Holodomor and Jews in Ukraine," which show how the Holodomor provoked migration of Jews from starving shtetls to the large cities, where the situation with provisions was somewhat better.

I am looking for a panel chair, two paper presenters and a discussant.

If you are interested in participating in the panel, please contact me by email:

Submitted by:

Michal Brandl

Jewish Migration and Modern Jewish Life in the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union

I would like to organize a panel for the 2017 AJS Conference (December 17-19, 2017, Washington, DC) on Jews in Central-Eastern and Eastern Europe after the Second World War. I am looking for a panel chair and presenters.

If you are interested, please contact me by email

Submitted by:

Zack Berger
Johns Hopkins School of Medicine

Contemporary Approaches to Vaccination

I am seeking participants for a panel examining the contemporary approaches of Jewish communities and halachic decisors to vaccination.

Submitted by:

Helen Leneman

David's Wives as Re-imagined by Jewish Writers, Artists and Composers

I have an idea for a panel on "David's Wives as Re-imagined by Jewish Writers, Artists and Composers" (or "in the arts). I have offered similar panels at previous AJS meetings. So far, Rachel Adelman has agreed to participate, and I myself will offer a paper. So we need a couple more participants and a chair.

Submitted by:

Noam Sienna

Jewish Objects and Material Culture

What is Jewish about a Jewish object — if anything? How do material objects move through and across communities? What meanings do objects assume in different contexts, both Jewish and non-Jewish? We welcome papers that probe the nuances of Jewish material culture throughout different time periods and cultures, whether through a specific case study or a comparative approach. Questions and proposals of 350-500 words can be sent to and

Submitted by:

Geoffrey Levin

To the Displaced: Jews and Refugee Politics

At many points throughout history, Jews have been refugees; other times, Jews have been among those determining the fate of other refugees. This panel will examines "Jewish politics" in both circumstances, welcoming papers both on the politics of Jews as refugees and Jews' views of other refugee crises. How has the Jewish experience of displacement affected support for or against refugee relief? When have empathy and solidarity shaped politics, and when has Jewish insecurity had a greater effect? How have other groups treated Jewish refugees? How have Israeli and diaspora views on refugees differed? These are just a few examples of questions relevant to this panel.

Both historical and contemporary research papers will be considered. My own paper will likely deal with American Jewish encounters with and approaches to the Palestinian Arab refugee issue between 1948 and 1967.

Please email with questions or preliminary topic ideas.

Submitted by:

Dennis B. Klein

Forgiveness After Historical Injustice

Under what circumstances have Jews, after historical injustice, expressed forgiveness? This session will explore and compare examples, consider whether its expression was conditional or unconditional, and ask if its expression served to mitigate anger and the will to vengeance, to achieve reconciliation, or to restore faith in God. By contrast, contributions are welcome that explore instances where forgiveness was absent or deliberately withheld. Forgiveness is an exalted aspiration, but has it inspired Jews to negotiate the aftermath of extraordinary harm?

Submitted by:

Erik Dreff

What Happened to Spinoza?

Often a concluding footnote in medieval studies, or an early footnote in modern, biblical, and critical, studies, and elsewhere, Spinoza is everywhere and yet nowhere all at once. Despite widespread agreement as to his relevance and importance, and his name being frequently dropped in discussions of other thinkers and issues, studies of and on Spinoza and his works are counter-intuitively few, at least in the worlds of AJS and Jewish Studies.  This session thus invites interdisciplinary and diachronic submissions that critically evaluate the place and role of Spinoza in Jewish studies, at AJS, or in their own fields, past, present, and future.

Submitted by:

Bernard Dov Cooperman

The Practice of Jewish Politics, 1492–1880

Modern Jewish political movements such as Zionism and Bundist Socialism themselves emerge out of a long tradition of Jewish political activity in earlier centuries. We seek papers about aspects of the development of Jewish political organization and activity in the early modern period. Suggested topics include legal sources of political authority among Jews, the specific objectives of political endeavors, networks of political practice, the changing relationship between communities and the state in both imperial and national settings, as well as how Jewish politics were mediated, performed, and practiced in the public sphere. This session will build upon several conferences recently organized around Jewish political activity, including one at University of Maryland, College Park, scheduled for October 22–23, 2017. If you would like to propose a paper, please contact Bernard Dov Cooperman ( or 240-888-9013).

Submitted by:

Nick Underwood

Culture Congresses in Historical Perspective

This panel seeks to explore culture and politics thorugh the lens of culture congresses. So far, this panel includes a paper on the “First International Yiddish Culture Congress", in Paris in September 1937 and the "World Yiddish Cultural Congress" held in New York City in September 1948. We are particularly interested in someone working on the 1908 Czernowitz Conference. However, we are very much open to someone working on other Culture congresses, including those never fully realized. If you are interested in joining our panel, please email Nick Underwood:

Submitted by:

Eli Bromberg

Jewish Respectability Politics

Respectability politics" first came to popular usage in reference to strategies within black scholarly, religious, activist and political discourse regarding how to best advocate for black community interests within the broader societal context of society's anti-black racism. Ta-Nehisi Coates, among others, has criticized "politics of respectability" by suggesting that such appeals, even if unintentionally, treat the acknowledgment of black humanity as conditional, contributing to racist systems in which rights are recognized only to the extent that African Americans meet an arbitrary, and often shifting, standard of behavior. Further, proponents of "respectability politics" can reveal hypocrisy, as in Bill Cosby's years of criticism of black youth culture, despite his own history of having been accused of countless sexual assaults.

I'm interested in creating an interdisciplinary panel that considers this concept within a Jewish context, engaging questions such as: How might a respectability politics framework reveal nuances regarding how intra-Jewish conversations about nation, culture, religious tradition and practice, etc., transpire, both contemporarily or historically? How could respectability politics help us think about power dynamics and resistance as it pertains to various Jewish community engagements with specific political conversations and conflicts? How do Jewish respectability politics impact conversations in "mixed company?" What taboo or provocative conversations might Jewish respectability politics stymie? How might Jewish respectability politics potentially privilege the interests of some groups of Jews above others, in terms of gender, sexual identity, race, or class? What is the impact of Jewish respectability politics on non-Jewish groups?

Sociological, literary, and historical disciplinary approaches, among others, are more than encouraged, as would be papers with an Israeli or other transnational focus. While my paper will deal with the late twentieth century, I anticipate the panel accommodating various historical periods dating back to the Haskalah (or thereabouts).

Please email Eli Bromberg at with any questions, ideas for papers, or 350 word abstracts.

Submitted by:

David Freidenreich

Partnerships between Jewish Studies Programs and Off-Campus Jewish Organizations

This proposed roundtable will explore various models for sustained partnerships between academic Jewish studies programs/departments and Jewish communal organizations whose focus is not primarily on students (e.g., synagogues, federations, or cultural institutions, but not Hillel chapters). Panelists, speaking about their personal experience, will address issues such as: What is the nature of your institution's collaborative efforts, and what goals do these efforts advance? What challenges have you faced in establishing and maintaining these partnerships, and how have you sought to overcome them? What benefits have resulted from these partnerships, and what advice would you offer to colleagues interested in exploring possibilities for collaboration? If you would be interested in serving as a panelist, please send an email to David Freidenreich ( with a brief description of the partnership(s) with which you have personal experience.

Submitted by:

Matthew Boxer

Jewish Identity: I Know It When I See It

Despite decades of effort on the part of the organized Jewish community to “strengthen Jewish identity,” the concept of Jewish identity is not clearly defined or articulated.  Is it behavioral? Attitudinal? Tribal? Does it depend upon a set of shared communal experiences, beliefs, or historical narratives? How does the concept account for the wide variety of expressions of Jewish identity throughout the world? How do researchers operationalize the construct of Jewish identity? What exactly are the goals of programs that are designed to strengthen Jewish identity?

We seek to develop a paper panel or roundtable built broadly around these questions. In particular, we are hoping to recruit two additional participants with qualitative, educational, historical, or intersectional approaches to these questions, to join Matthew Boxer and Janet Krasner Aronson. Boxer intends to address the disconnect between the uses of the term "identity" in social psychology and discussions of Jewish identity, and Aronson intends to review the ways Jewish identity is addressed in recent local Jewish community studies.

Submitted by:

Joseph Davis

Jews and the Global Crisis of the Seventeenth Century

We are hoping to set up a session on Jews and the Global Crisis of the Seventeenth Century.  A powerful, although controversial, framing of the history of mid-seventeenth century is to see the English Civil War, the Thirty Years War, the Cossack Revolt and so-called "Deluge" in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, and quite a number of other civil wars, rebellions, and internal crises, both in Europe and outside of Europe, as part of a "general crisis." Recently Geoffrey Parker has suggested still more boldly that they were in fact part of a "global crisis," provoked in the first instance by climate change, the little Ice Age, and food shortages.  A "general crisis" or "global crisis" of the seventeenth century can also be a powerful way of framing events in the Jewish history of the period. If you would like to be part of the session, please contact Joseph Davis ( or 610-617-3633).

Submitted by:

Jim Wald

The Unmastered Past: Polish-Jewish Relations

The issue of Polish-Jewish relations in the modern era has long been contentious. On the one hand, both Jewish and non-Jewish citizens of Poland were victims of the Nazis. On the other hand, it is undeniable that antisemitism, a powerful force in the pre-war state, and did not disappear in the wartime years of shared suffering. Post-communist Polish society has generally been enthusiastic in exploring the Jewish past as an integral element of the country’s history, and on the whole, commendably forthright in exploring native antisemitism. However, the rise of a new right-wing nationalist government has called these achievements into question as it has threatened to revoke awards of or even prosecute scholars who besmirch the national honor by digging too deeply into uncomfortable aspects of the national past.

The panel could deal with, for example: historical questions of Polish-Jewish relations as such and/or modern responses to same, e.g. the attacks on critical history in the present era.

Submitted by:

Rachel Gross

Shayna Weiss

Taking Care of Business: Jews and Business History

We seek participants for a roundtable on Jews and modern business history. Questions we expect to address include but are not limited to: How have industries shaped Jews’ religion, cultures, and practices, and how have corporations defined what counts as Jewish? What impact have antisemitism and stereotypes of Jews as successful capitalists played in business history? Has Jewish Studies neglected business history?

We welcome proposals that will expand our roundtable’s geographic diversity, especially proposals on topics beyond the North American and Israeli contexts, as well as proposals with attention to analysis of gender and ethnicity.

Interested participants should email Rachel Gross ( and Shayna Weiss ( with a two- to three-sentence description of their contribution to the roundtable and a question or two that their topic addresses by April 30, 2017.

Submitted by:

Noah Hysler Rubin

Yishuv Urban Culture

Although the Zionist movement was conceived of primarily as an agrarian endeavour, striving for the creation of a modern rural society, the vast majority of Zionists who arrived in Palestine during the time of the British Mandate (1918-1947) settled in cities, as did most of the other Jews living in Palestine at the time. I would like to bring together scholars from various disciplines working on the cities of Palestine during the yishuv period to discuss the urban culture of the time. 'Urban culture' can be interpreted in various ways: It can be the actual yishuv (or Jewish, or amalgamating Israeli) culture, which found expression in cities, via literature, theatre, music etc. It can be the culture of the urban society, as well as that of the urban society's backyard. Finally, it can also be, as in my case, the culture of the urban – or, how cities were imagined, developed and planned, either by Jews of the yishuv or their Arab or even British contemporaries.

Please contact Noah Hysler Rubin


Paper Ideas

Submitted by:

Alan Levenson
(405) 325-6501

Maurice Samuel

This paper reassesses one of the premier Jewish humanists at mid-twentieth century, the Rumanian-born, English-educated, Maurice Samuel. His fame rested on four seemingly unrelated contributions. One, Samuel introduced many American readers to the worlds of Sholom Aleichem, Y.L. Peretz and many other Yiddish luminaries. Two, Samuel lived in Mandatory Palestine from 1929-1939 and presented the Zionist cause and evaluated Arab-Jewish conflict in Harvest in the Desert (1944) and Level Sunlight (1953). Three, Samuel conducted years of radio conversations with Columbia University’s Mark van Doren over the Bible’s qualities—a period in which “Bible as literature” represented a non-politicized component of the Western canon. Four, Samuel was a polemicist, a proponent of Jewish culture against antisemitism, a defender of Jewish tradition against those who considered it vestigial, and a champion of Jewish character against its detractors. Maurice Samuel was a public intellectual without being an expert, or even a college graduate. Would like to join a panel on assessments of antisemitism or 20th-century American Jewish thought.

Submitted by:

Jim Wald

“We who are the representatives of the Jewish community”: British Jewry and the Crisis Over Antisemitism in the Polish Army-in-Exile

In early 1944, roughly a third of the Jewish soldiers in the Polish Army-in-Exile in the United Kingdom, unable to endure the endemic persecution they encountered, left their units in Scotland and traveled to London, demanding transfer to the British forces. Two groups succeeded. The arrest and court martial of the final group prompted a Parliamentary inquiry and an international outcry. It was an embarrassment for the Polish government—already locked in struggle with the USSR for control of the postwar nation, and on the eve of the invasion of France—and a dilemma for the British Jewish leadership. The latter was very concerned with antisemitism in the British population, and above all, with rescue of Jews from the Holocaust. It therefore sought to work quietly behind the scenes and cultivate good relations with both the British and the Polish governments. The Polish government and British Jewish leadership were focused on the post-war future. For the Jewish soldiers, by contrast, it was a life-or-death matter. When the story of the arrests and court martial burst into the headlines, British Jewish leadership found itself forced to choose between its customary policy and a more radical, public approach to the defense of Jewish rights.

Possible Divisions:

  • World War and World Peace and Modern Jewish History
  • Holocaust Studies

(I could easily shape the orientation of the paper to focus on one or more of the actors or angles if that would facilitate its inclusion in a panel: e.g. Jewish-Polish relations, Holocaust historiography, Allied antisemitism, Jews in the military, Allied Jewish communities’ response to antisemitism or the Holocaust.)

Submitted by:

Bernice Heilbrunn

Synagogue Architecture - A Prominent Statement of Identity to the Community

I propose a paper on synagogue architecture and the insights that we can discern from buildings about Jewish identity in a given time and place. Architecture may be the most visible and prominent statement by Jews of their identity.

Two examples among several that I would like to discuss are:

1. Congregation Emanu-El in Houston, Texas, one of the first post-war suburban synagogue buildings and, interestingly, one that remains in use as its congregation's only locale. Designed by an architect who was a protege of Frank Lloyd Wright, for a new congregation, the building boasts exceptional architecture that serves its members well after nearly three generations; and

2. Congregation B'rith Shalom in Houston, Texas, proud of a modest campus, its third home, aach of its buildings being the product of significant member hands-on  efforts that contribute to defining the kind of community it is and the members that support this congregation.

Please contact me if you might be interested in including this paper in your panel, flipped or traditional, or contributing to a panel on this topic.

Submitted by:

Bernice Heilbrunn

Sadie American - Waging War on Jewish Poverty in an Era of Anxiety

The often overlooked co-founder of National Council of Jewish Women (1893) merits attention from historians. A social justice activist who sometimes worked within settlement houses, built and adapted NCJW chapters around the US,  and championed the needs of unwed Jewish mothers merits a full study. During an era of Jewish anxiety over Congressional efforts to impose immigration restrictions, was it proper to draw attention to social problems of Jewish poverty? Sadie American encountered dissent among New York Jewish women who objected to NCJW efforts that focused on the problems of Jewish poverty.

Please contact me if you might be interested in including a paper on Sadie American in your panel or if you might like to build a panel that includes her.

Submitted by:

Isaac Gottlieb

Some Aspects of the 'Tanakh at Eye-Level' School

I want to present a paper on "Some aspects of the 'Tanakh at eye-level' School". I would like to join a session on Biblical interpretation that is appropriate.