History of the Association for Jewish Studies
The Association for Jewish Studies: A Brief History (PDF)
by Kristen Loveland
The AJS at 40: An Exhibit
curated by Kristen Loveland, designed by Irv Cohen
Gala Banquet Plenary Session: The AJS at 40
Reflections at Forty:
Past Presidents on the Founding of the AJS and the Field of Jewish Studies
Back issues of AJS Perspectives, from 1972-1995, are available on the Berman Jewish Policy Archive.
More recent issues of AJS Perspectives, from 1999-present, are also available on the Berman Jewish Policy Archive.
Copies of past conference programs, dating back to 1973, are now available on the Berman Jewish Policy Archive.
The Association for Jewish Studies (AJS) was founded in 1969 by a small group of scholars seeking a forum for exploring methodological and pedagogical issues in the new field of Jewish
Studies. Since its founding, the AJS has grown into the largest learned society and professional
organization representing Jewish Studies scholars worldwide. As a constituent organization of
the American Council of Learned Societies, the Association for Jewish Studies represents the
field in the larger arena of the academic study of the humanities and social sciences in North
America. The organization's primary mission is to promote, facilitate, and improve teaching and
research in Jewish Studies at colleges, universities, and other institutions of higher learning. Its
more than 1800 members are university faculty, graduate students, independent scholars, and
museum and related professionals who represent the breadth of Jewish Studies scholarship. The
organization's institutional members represent leading North American programs and departments in the field.
The AJS's major programs and projects include an annual scholarly conference, featuring more
than 150 sessions; a peer-reviewed scholarly journal, AJS Review, published by Cambridge
University Press; a biannual magazine, AJS Perspectives, that explores methodological and pedagogical issues; Positions in Jewish Studies, the most comprehensive listing of Jewish Studies job
opportunities; Resources in Jewish Studies, an online guide to Jewish Studies programs, grant opportunities, professional development resources, electronic research tools, and doctoral theses;
the Jordan Schnitzer Book Awards, which recognize outstanding research in the ﬁeld; the Legacy
Heritage Jewish Studies Project, in cooperation with the Legacy Heritage Fund, in support of
innovative public programming; and the new Berman Foundation Dissertation Fellowships.
Membership in the association is open to individuals whose full-time vocation is teaching, research, or related endeavors in academic Jewish Studies; to other individuals whose intellectual
concerns are related to the purposes of the association; and to graduate students concentrating
in an area of Jewish Studies. Institutional membership is open to Jewish Studies programs and
departments, foundations, and other institutions whose work supports the mission of the AJS.
Approved by AJS Board of Directors, June 10, 2013
How can AJS best serve the needs of its members in the shifting landscape of higher education and the humanities? What role should Jewish Studies and AJS play in the community outside the university’s walls? How are digital and social media transforming the work of the scholar and the learned society? And is the learned society model of supporting its activities through membership dues, conference fees, and publications still relevant and viable? These and other questions drove the AJS’s first formal strategic planning process, which began in the fall of 2012 and ended recently with the AJS Board of Directors’ overwhelming vote of support for its findings. Spearheaded by AJS President Jeffrey Shandler and directed by Marta Siberio of Marta Siberio Consulting, the strategic planning process yielded a set of priorities that will guide the AJS’s activities and resources for the next three years. These priorities focus on expanding the services AJS provides its members, building AJS’s capacity to collect and share data, and enhancing AJS’s infrastructure to enable it to do even more for scholars and the field in years to come.
AJS could not have completed this project without the wisdom and work of an exceptional Strategic Planning Committee: Beth Berkowitz (Barnard College), Mark Kligman (HUC-JIR), Rebecca Kobrin (Columbia University), Hartley Lachter (Muhlenberg College), Joshua Lambert (University of Massachusetts, Amherst and National Yiddish Book Center), Vanessa Ochs (University of Virginia), Rona Sheramy (AJS), Adam Teller (Brown University), Shelly Tenenbaum (Clark University), and Jeffrey Shandler (chair, AJS President, Rutgers University). Likewise, many of you participated in focus groups at the AJS Conference in Chicago and our offices in New York; thank you for sharing your time and ideas. We also owe thanks to several learned society and foundation professionals, as well as experts in academic publishing and the state of the humanities, who allowed themselves to be interviewed by Marta. Please let us know what you think about these priorities; you will certainly be hearing more about these initiatives in the months to come.