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Sessions Seeking Participants/Papers Seeking Sessions

AJS 46th Annual Conference
December 14-16, 2014 • Baltimore, Maryland
Hilton Baltimore

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)

Session Ideas (Roundtables, Seminars, Panels, Meetings)

Submitted by:

Daniel Parmer

The Waning of Jewish Distinctivenes

I would like to organize a session that explores the waning of Jewish distinctiveness among American Jews. Over the course of the 20th century, American Jews experienced enormous prosperity and unprecedented acceptance. They have been described as a model immigrant minority and their successful rise to the middle class was both relatively swift and near-universal. Decades of social scientific research has suggested that American Jews enjoy greater occupational prestige, higher rates of college education or advanced degrees, and higher income compared with other groups, in particular other non-Hispanic whites. Observers have noted non-economic indicators of distinctiveness as well including family ties, urbanity, marriage and divorce rates, and a variety of socially liberal attitudes. But has this all changed? Are American Jews becoming more "American" or are Americans becoming more "Jewish" (or both), thus closing the gap that has defined a narrative for more than half a century? I would like to invite scholars to join me in exploring this topic through social scientific, sociological, and historical perspectives. Are American Jews still distinctive? And if so, in what ways? And does it still matter?

Submitted by:

Nick Underwood

Yiddish Culture in France Between the Two World Wars

This panel addresses the topic of Yiddish culture in France during and between the two World Wars. Yiddish culture in France is still an understudied topic, however, recent research in French, Jewish, and Yiddish studies shows that this lack of focus by scholars is not the result of a dearth of Yiddish cultural life in France. We hope that this panel will serve as a base from which to catalyze a new chapter in French, Jewish, and Yiddish studies to include France as an important place where Yiddish culture was created, performed, and lived. Papers for this panel can be widely conceived and need not focus solely on culture or cultural productions themselves. Papers on Yiddish in France, in the number of ways that that can be understood, are also welcome. The number of proposals will determine which format this panel will take.  If you would like to present on this topic or have any questions please contact

Submitted by:

Erin Corber

Jewish Responses to The Refugee Crisis of the 1930s

We are interested in putting together a panel exploring Jewish responses to the refugee crises of the 1930s. We are two scholars concerned with French Jews’ responses at various stages of the crisis, but we are happy to include the work of a scholar working on other Jewish communities facing these challenges during this period, including refugees themselves.

Submitted by:

Corinne E. Blackmer

Jewish Ethics of Speech

Jewish ethics of speech, as adumbrated in the TANAKH and rabbinic sources, including R. Israel Meir Kagan (the Hafetz Hayyim), prohibits gossip, slander, tale-bearing, humiliation, and other forms of injurious speech.  This panel will explore Jewish ethics (or laws) of speech in their historical and contemporary contexts.  What is the relevance of Jewish ethics of speech in the information and internet age—particularly in relation to the dissemination of antisemitism but also other forms of defamatory or predatory speech?  How well do the Jewish ethics of speech, with its strong emphasis on confidentiality and skepticism toward speech injurious to reputation provide for situations in which disclosure is ethically mandated (e.g., child sexual or domestic abuse)?  How can Jewish ethics of speech be honored in contemporary contexts, and what is their importance for Jewish ethics broadly considered?

Submitted by:

Stuart Schoenfeld

Urbanism, Urban Jews and Jewish Identity, Part 2

This proposed session will advance the conversation begun at the very well attended session 2013 AJS on this topic that had thoughtful papers by Lila Berman, Rakhmiel Peltz and Ira Sheskin.  The description of the topic remains the same:

The session is part of a larger project of opening up a scholarly focus on urbanism, urban Jews and Jewish identity. Literature in the sociology of North American Jews has developed in the long shadow of Sklare’s 1972 book on "Jewish Identity on the Suburban Frontier".   However, for at least several decades interesting things have been happening in cities, including interesting Jewish things.  In some places, gentrified neighborhoods have expanded and a growing population lives and works in downtown, midtown and urbanized inner suburbs.  In other places, declining city neighborhoods have become sites of urban experimentation. These changes may be related to the argument that we are at the beginning of the restructuring of North American social geography into more compact living spaces and more environmentally sensitive living due to a combination of personal values, public policy choices and market conditions.

The transformation of urban life in North America raises questions for Jewish self-understandings.  In prosperous, growing cities and in various ways in declining cities, it is possible to find older Jewish institutions that continue to survive and new ones that have been created.  How are cities changing?  What do we know about Jewish demographic distribution in various types of local geographies: downtowns, midtowns, inner suburbs, newer suburbs, exurbs?  What do we know or would like to know about the life-styles of Jews in urban places? What do we know or would like to know about the revival of Jewish institutions and the creation of new ones in urban places?  What do we know our would like to know about how local federations see the impact of changing urban neighborhoods?  Papers in this section explore the intersection of changing urban cores of cities, Jewish institutional developments and Jewish identity.

A related paper, “Changing Urban Geography and North American Jewish Life”, presented at the Eastern Sociology Society meetings in December, is available from Stuart Schoenfeld ( to those interested in the topic.

Colleagues interested in presenting are invited to send abstracts so we can submit together in advance of the AJS deadline of May 7.

Submitted by:

Gary Weissman

Very Marginal Holocaust Texts

This session seeks to address textual representations of the Holocaust in the public realm that have escaped the notice of scholars, whether because they belong to marginalized or disregarded genres, exist outside of standard modes of distribution and circulation, or are long forgotten. Through such texts we may imagine the existence of a shadow corpus, a constellation of overlooked and long-lost works that form an alternative, minor canon of Holocaust literature. Here “literature” should be understood in the broadest possible sense, to include works in a variety of media and genres. Our interest will be in the capacity of these marginal texts to model ways of thinking about and representing the Holocaust that differ from those that have come to seem natural and inevitable. I am particularly interested in proposals that explore how specific, very marginal Holocaust-related texts might challenge established conceptions of memory, trauma, and the “limits of representation.” Please submit proposals or questions to Gary Weissman at

Submitted by:

Jay A Gertzman

The Jewish Middleman/Visionary: The Work of Graphic Artist Ben Katchor

In The Jew of New York, this graphic artist weaves together various stories of Jews involved in entertainment, the preparation of food and drink, the importation of buttons and beaver pelts, and a scheme to found a utopian community of Jews and native Americans, the lost 10 tribes of Israel. Many of these stories are about the purveying of sacred materials to secular consumers. Illusion is as important as money. There is an undercurrent of “lascivious dream[ing] and voyeurism. One character is an anti-Semitic writer who wishes to put into a popular play (The Jew of New York) his beliefs about Jewish venality. Yet he has a symbiotic relationship with the Jewish people, and says that “without the Judeo-Christian ethos,” his own work would be “cheap burlesque.” Katchor is very original, historically acute, and wry. The faces he draws are both revealing in their frozen-featured shapes and outsized noses and mouths, with intense eyes interestingly contrasting with facial expressions and postures. The themes seem to be the American Dream, the morphing of sacred and pseudo-sacred rituals and objects into marketable commodities, and the ever-changing landscape of cities, as cultural “advances” change their purposes and everyday uses (see his Julius Knipl, Real Estate Photographer). Any of Katchor’s works are valid subjects for discussion, as is his visual style, his use of point of view, his surrealism, or his place in the Jewish American graphic novel. A panel for this section would ideally include artists, readers, and students of American history and culture.

Submitted by:

Edward K. Kaplan
Kevy and Hortense Professor in the Humanities Brandeis University

Seeking a post-Shoah Jewish Utopia: the Colloques des intellectuels juifs de langue française

Last year in Boston was the first session at the AJS at which we presented papers related to the Colloques des intellectuels juifs de langue française. These yearly meetings, which began in Paris in 1957, featured the regular participation of outstanding French thinkers such as André Neher (leçons bibliques), Emmanuel Levinas (leçons talmudiques), Éliane Amado Lévy-Valensi, Vladimir Jankélévitch, Jean Wahl, and many more. Their basic goal was to rebuild French Judaism after the Shoah by applying Jewish thought and tradition to issues of current concern.

Our sessions are based on the impeccably edited volumes published by Presses Universitaires de France, which include the animated discussions (or débats). Reading these volumes conveys a powerful sense of community as well as intellectual honesty at the highest levels. Scholars interested in philosophy, history, French culture, Judaism as a religion and as a component of secular French identity, and recovery after the Shoah #will find rich materials. The recent books by Sandrine Szwarc and Johanna Lehr, and the new Dictionnaire du judaÏsme français depuis 1944 demonstrate increased interest in this historical period. I propose that we focus on the Colloques that took place from 1957-1968, after the June '67 war and the '68 student rebellions after which many of the founders immigrated to Israel.

If you are interested in this project, please send me your contact information and any questions or suggestions. If you wish, I will send you the table of contents of all the volumes. And the conversation will begin!

Submitted by:

Victoria Khiterer

Suppressed Memory: Commemoration of the Holocaust in the Soviet Union and post-Soviet countries

I would like to create a panel on the perception and memorialization of the Holocaust in the Soviet Union and post-Soviet countries.

Why was the Holocaust a forbidden topic in the Soviet Union? Why did the Soviet authorities not allow the construction of monuments to the victims of the Holocaust? What role did the state and popular anti-Semitism play in this prohibition? How, despite the ban, did Soviet Jews and the liberal gentile intelligentsia commemorate the victims of the Holocaust? What is the current situation with commemoration of the Holocaust in post-Soviet countries? How is the collaboration of the local population with the Nazis discussed today?

I plan to present my paper on the commemoration and memorialization of the Holocaust in Babi Yar (Kiev). I will show that not only the state, but also popular anti-Semitism, postponed the construction of a monument in Babi Yar for a long time. I will discuss how public opinion in the Soviet Union and abroad influenced the decision of the authorities to finally build a monument in Babi Yar in 1976. I will also analyze the current situation with the memorialization of the victims of the Holocaust in Kiev.

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

Please contact me by email:

Submitted by:

Tamar Ron Marvin

Regions and Networks of Premodern Jewries: Changing Paradigms

I am interested in organizing a "flipped" session to address new conceptualizations of regionalism and cross-regional networks (economic, social, cultural) in the historical study of premodern Jewries, c. 350-c. 1750. The Ashkenaz-Sefarad paradigm long dominant in Jewish Studies has been effectively critiqued, giving way to a more complex and variegated landscape which acknowledges the many subcultures that make up these spheres—as well as the numerous regions that fall outside of them. How do we in Jewish Studies respond to developments outside of the field in which the Mediterranean and Atlantic have emerged as paradigmatic regions used to organize cultural development, interaction, and exchange? How can the related concept of "networks" of people, goods, and knowledge most effectively be applied to premodern Jewries? In what ways do these paradigms not work for our field? Participants are encouraged to present their research as case studies for their responses to these disciplinary questions. A flipped format will allow for discussion among panelists and audience members about both their views and research.

Submitted by:

Dragan Kujundzic

The Holocaust in Hungary (1944-2014): Art, Literature, Film

The session is meant to commemorate and reflect upon the deportation of Jews in Hungary, most particularly, but not restricted, in 1944, as represented in cinema, art or literature. Kertesz's  Fatelesness (or the film by Lajos Koltai), or Istvan Szabo's Sunshine are the most prominent titles that may be discussed. The papers should pose a question of the event's historical significance as it has been dealt with in these (and others, the proposal is open) works of art.


Submitted by:

Alanna E. Cooper

Transnational Judaism: Religion in Local and Global Perspectives

In recent years, Jewish historians have turned their attention toward examining the contours of transnational social, kinship and economic networks that have connected Jews in far-flung locales. By contrast, contemporary studies of Jewish practices and beliefs are generally framed within highly local contexts. Indeed, the study of Jewish forms as organically connected to the varied cultural worlds in which Jews have found themselves has been linked to a larger project: the effort to show that there is no reified, isolated or pure form of the religion. In this framework, the possibility that there is a category that might be considered "global Judaism" has been largely dismissed or overlooked. This panel, by contrast, gives attention to the ways in which religious ideas, beliefs and practices spread and come to be shared across vast geographical terrain. Taking the lead from scholars of Islam, Buddism, Hinduism and Christianity who are engaged in vigorous discussion about whether there is such a thing as "global religion," the panel explores the relationship between local and transnational religious forms. In turning here to the study of Judaism, some of the issues to be addressed include: How have Jewish ideas and beliefs traveled, and in what way has their movement been linked to networks of kinship and trade? How have Jewish communities navigated the tensions that present themselves when their local Jewish forms come into conflict with Jewish forms introduced from elsewhere? What sorts of challenges must the researcher confront in studying Jewish forms from a transnational perspective, and what are some of the creative ways in which these challenges might be met?


Submitted by:

Yulia Egorova

Jewish-Muslim Relations

I would like to propose a panel exploring different aspects of Jewish-Muslims relations. The panel welcomes submissions from scholars working on any aspect of Jewish-Muslim relations in any historical period and is open to papers from a wide range of disciplines. I am particularly interested in contributions that engage with one of the following topics: Jews and Muslims in the Diaspora, responses to anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, interfaith dialogue in Judaism and Islam, Jewish and Muslim diversity.

If you are interested in contributing a paper please contact me on

Submitted by:

Rosemary Horowitz

Representations of yizkor and the Holocaust

Yizkor, in Hebrew, means "remember." It is not only the first word of the prayer, it also represents an overall theme. Yizkor is foundational to the commemoration of loss, and in our panel, we wish to explore yizkor and the Holocaust. At this point, we have two proposals. Rosemary Horowitz will examine yizkor in the writing of Rachel Auerbach by focusing on Auerbach's "Yizkor, 1943," a poem that expressed her feelings about the deportations from the Warsaw ghetto and her anger at those who betrayed the Jews; Der Yidisher Oyfshtand, Varshe 1943, her account of the Jewish uprising in Warsaw; and a Boym in geto, an essay about the poet Yisroel Shtern contained in the memorial volume Sefer kehilat Ostrolenka. Horowitz will examine the ways in which Auerbach's writings provide insights into the commemoration of Polish Jewry over time. Rachel Feldhay Brenner will approach Leopold Buczkowski's Black Torrent as a yizkor book dedicated to the shtetl Szabasowa. She notes that while other writers either described Polish mistreatment of the Jews (Andrzejewski), or praised Polish selfless rescuing of the Jews (Dabrowska), or deplored their moral weakness in face of the genocidal terror (Borowski), Buczkowski identified the destruction of Szabasowa, which was an integral part of his formative personal and social experience, as his own traumatic loss. We are seeking one or two additional participants who are interested in examining representations of yizkor and the Holocaust in fiction, non-fiction, drama, art, music, and related works.

Please address proposals or questions to Rosemary at or Rachel Feldhay Brenner at

Submitted by:

Sean Burrus

The Practice and Materiality of Jewish Death

The second meeting of the Practice and Materiality of Jewish Death continues the work of our first meeting (AJS 2013) in exploring the underexamined human practices and material culture in which Jewish conceptions of death have been ritualized. The papers contributed to "The Practice and Materiality of Jewish Death" will contribute to the ongoing discussion of the roles that material culture and ritual practice play in the Jewish experience of death, mourning and remembrance, and in the social construction of Jewish belief and custom. For our second meeting (AJS 2014), papers are particularly sought that focus on one of three themes of Jewish funerary customs: 1) anthropologies of Jewish death and mourning, 2) applications of interdisciplinary approaches, and 3) recovering past practices through archaeological, textual and visual sources. Additionally, papers that deal with the biblical and late modern periods are encouraged.

Submissions of paper abstracts (~350 words) to be included with the session proposal are due Thursday, May 1st.


Submitted by:

Beth Berkowitz

Animal Studies and Jewish Studies

Jacques Derrida was inspired to write his now-classic (nine-hour!) lecture "The Animal That Therefore I Am" when, one day, standing naked before his cat, he wondered: Should I feel embarrassed? Reflection of this sort on the relationship between human beings and other species can be traced back to Plato and Aristotle, but the Darwinian revolution in the nineteenth century and the rise of eco-consciousness in the twentieth have generated entirely new ways of thinking about human difference. Some scholars of the humanities today, drawing on these developments, advocate that the academy reorient itself towards a new "posthumanities." My interest is in marrying animal studies with rabbinics, my sub-field in Jewish Studies. In this panel I seek other scholars in any area of Jewish Studies who are interested in presenting work that brings together animal studies and Jewish Studies. Themes within animal studies that the panel might explore are the representation of bestiality, the understanding of animal suffering, and the animalization of some humans by others as a strategy of marginalization. Jewish Studies has much to offer animal studies, and vice versa, and this panel's purpose would be to encourage this intellectual partnership. Please email me, Beth Berkowitz, with paper ideas at


Submitted by:

Ilse Josepha Lazaroms

Violence, Virtue, and Vaterland: Hungarian Jewish Responses to the Long Great War

This panel seeks to convey and analyze the various contradictory responses to the First World War and in particular its violent aftermath of Hungarian Jewish spokespeople, communities, and unknown historical actors. The many stories that emerge from inside the “Jewish experience” of war and violence are framed within the longer story of the onset of the waning of emancipation in Hungary, the tradition of responses to catastrophe and rupture in Jewish history, and the reformulations of Jewish belonging that resulted from these events. Especially but not limited to Hungary, interpretations of anti-Jewish violence were often aimed at upholding a sense of belonging in the face of increasing social exclusion and real, physical danger.

The papers in this panel each present a response to the question of how Hungarian Jews narrated their experiences of war and violence in its immediate aftermath, concentrating not on the violence itself but on the interpretations that emerged from a desire by many of those affected to maintain a continuous, albeit troubled, co-existence with their increasingly Christian surroundings. They highlight previously neglected viewpoints of Jewish historical actors in these short transitional years between complete destruction and relative piece, such as those of the Western parties of the JDC, sent to Hungary for relief and reconstruction, and the Orthodox communities in the provinces. Together, these papers aim to present the complexities and depth of the Hungarian Jewish perspective on national belonging. Please send 350 word proposals to Ilse Josepha Lazaroms ( and Emily Gioielli ( by April 25th.

Submitted by:

Susan Breitzer

The Labor of Religion

I would like to propose a session that looks at the ways in which Jewish religious professionas have seen themselves or been seen as workers or employees (or not), and in what ways labor concerns including the prospect of unionization has impinged on traditional religious vocations in the Jewish world. Possible topics could include the dual status of shehitah as both a  religious function and a skilled trade, the development of rabbinical placement services as rabbinic “hiring halls” and  their effects on the hiring of rabbis, and the religious basis for support of or opposition to unionization of religious school teachers.  Questions to be addressed could include: Where does religious/vocational identity end and consciousness of one's status as worker begins? In what ways do religious functionaries have or don't have the same rights in Jewish religious settings as workers in secular workplaces? In what ways have essentially secular Jewish labor movements made organization less acceptable in Jewish religious settings?

If interested, please contact Susan Breitzer at at the earliest opportunity.

Submitted by:

Ashley Passmore

Digital Judaism

We are seeking papers to complete our panel on Digital Judaism, an exploration of theoretical approaches to the interface between Jewish religious and social communities and new media, such as social media, blogging or Internet websites. Papers that consider the online or offline implications of online Jewish religious practices and social networking will be considered.  Please contact Ashley Passmore at