Author Archives: ajsADMin

Crossing Delancey

Crossing Delancey offers a view into the changing world of modern Jewry, providing a powerful heroine who, along with her friends, highlights both the incredible opportunities available to contemporary women and the price that such freedom affords. Her aging grandmother remains linked to a Jewish traditional world of the New York Lower East Side, even as waves of new immigration have displaced the Jewish dominance of the area. Her parents have fled to Florida, where they live in an idyllic retirement world, suggesting the affluence of middle-class suburban expansion that started to occur for Jews during the 1950s, while Isabelle Grossman is making her own contemporary life in a world where her close childhood friends are still Jewish but her work colleagues orbit in other worlds, offering her a glimpse into societies that generations of earlier Jews from her social class would never have seen or imagined.

Made in 1988, the film's questions remain relevant for young Jewish women today. What is the balance between a traditional Jewish domestic family life and our work lives; can women raise Jewish children alone; to what extent can Jewish women own their sexuality, and is the pickle merchant really what he seems? In a world of JDate, speed dating, surrogacy, Birthright, and alternative prayer services some questions remain the same: can a Jewish woman have it all?

A Serious Man

The film captures the drama of "American Jews becoming white," and it does so with just the right amount of nostalgia and the kind of self-deprecating humor that Jews (pardon the essentialism) appreciate so much. The Coens manage to bring back to life the haunting memory of the shtetls and Yiddish, which for some American Jews is of course still a very much living reality; and to do so with cynicism, but also with love and true affection. The film lends itself perfectly to class discussions about modernity and the promise of the "new world" in relation to modern Jewish history. Though humorous, the film serves as a great platform through which to discuss some very serious tensions between the history of Jews as Other and the present Judeo-Christian reality created as a master narrative in the United States after World War II. It also touches upon tensions between the idea of a Jewish messianic time and the reality of the present (Christian?) world we inhabit as American modernized citizens.

While several critics have accused the Coen brothers of producing a self- loathing film full of anti-Semitic caricatured representations of Jews, I would argue on the contrary that the film demonstrates just the right amount of self-criticism, which is necessary to assure the humanist impact of what Hannah Arendt calls "the Jew as Pariah."


So many high quality films relevant to the field of Jewish Studies have been produced that it's hard to pick just one. However, I have also noticed that excellent films are not always the most effective teaching tools. Students often need more background in order to be able to appreciate a particularly ambitious and nuanced film dealing with a subject of relevance to Jewish Studies. This is probably why one of the films that I have had the most success with for the purposes of teaching undergraduates is by no means my favorite. But, when used carefully, I have found Giddi Dar's Ushpizin to be a helpful teaching tool for survey courses on Judaism.

Set in a religious Jerusalem neighborhood, this at-times humorous film follows a series of unlikely events that happen to a married couple, Moshe and Mali, over the holiday of Sukkot as they attempt to reconcile their newly adopted religious identity as Bratslav Hasidim with their struggle to conceive a child. The lighthearted but earnest plot line of the film provides countless points of reference for discussing traditional Jewish religious practice. The film also provides many, albeit filtered, allusions to the tensions between secular and religious Jews in Israel.

The obvious problem with using a film like this is that it depicts one particular kind of Judaism, set in a specific time and place, as the authentic model. The vast diversity of Jewish life across time and space is not visible in this film. But, these limitations are in fact the reason why the film can work so well as a teaching tool. It gives the students a place to start. Jonathan Z. Smith argues that effective college teaching often entails what he calls "the necessary lie," or "disciplinary lying," where students are given a stable starting point for study, which is subsequently destabilized. Ushpizin works well as an initial frame of reference, which can then be problematized from a variety of directions. The students are able to recognize how much they have learned by comparing their first impressions of the film with their more informed perspective at the end of the semester.

Le Grand Rôle

The Yiddish reading of Shylock's "Hath Not a Jew Eyes?" speech is among the most memorable scenes in Le Grand Rôle (2004). The performance lands actor Maurice (Stéphane Freiss) the role of a lifetime. When the role is then given to a Hollywood star, Maurice takes on another even greater part, hiding his loss from his wife, Perla (Bérénice Bejo), who is dying of cancer. Le Grand Rôle is a tearjerker, but also an exploration of Jewish-Christian relations in Europe. Maurice's audition follows a speech by an elderly Holocaust survivor (Clément Harari). In the spirit of "all the world's a stage," the old man asserts that everyone plays roles, even that of survivor. And, perhaps, he suggests, survivors can write Shylock better than Shakespeare.

I teach early English literature and I am eager to encourage students to think not only about how Jews have been represented in works like Merchant, but how Jews have responded and continue to respond to this tradition. Some of the most engaging new research on medieval and early modern Jewish-Christian relations addresses interaction between cultures, studying not just "the Jew that Shakespeare drew," but how Jews played a role in shaping early European cultures. Maurice can play his "great role" because he is supported by a loyal group of friends, who, like him, navigate life in Paris as Jews. The film opens in a restaurant, where a powerful director pokes fun at Maurice's Jewish identity, provoking a spirited response from Perla. The film closes with a widowed Maurice on his way to another restaurant meal, this time buoyed by his Jewish friends. He stares at a poster for the film he almost starred in, remarking that he has dubbed Shylock's Yiddish lines instead. Jewish life in France seems more precarious now than when Le Grand Rôle premiered a decade ago; the question of the survival of Jewish voices in Europe is more relevant than ever.

Secrets of a Soul

Many films relate directly to my work in Jewish Studies, but I would like to point to one a bit less obvious: G. W. Pabst's 1926 film Secrets of a Soul (Geheimnesse einer Seele), the first serious cinematic representation of the psychoanalytic process. From the fertile cultural scene of Weimar Germany, psychoanalysis, like film, burst into the public consciousness, and captivated arbiters of popular culture around the world. One of these, Hollywood mogul Samuel Goldwyn, even approached Sigmund Freud himself, offering him $100,000 to consult on a psychoanalytically themed film. Freud turned down the offer ("We do not want to give our consent to anything insipid"), but two in his "inner circle," Karl Abraham and Hans Sachs, proved more willing, and with screenwriter Hans Neumann they helped create a minor masterpiece. [1]

The film opens on a domestic scene, in which a middle-aged professor, Martin Fellman (Werner Krauss, of Cabinet of Dr. Caligari fame) is startled by a scream and accidentally cuts his wife. That evening, he has a frightful dream, portrayed in a fantastic surrealist cinematic sequence, the brainchild of Hungarian Jewish artist Ernö Metzner. After the dream, Fellman develops an acute neurosis: he cannot touch knives and is irrationally afraid of returning home to his wife. He is discovered in his sickened state by a kindly stranger, who turns out to be none other than Dr. Orth, an expert in a "new method for treatment of such illness," psychoanalysis. "There is no reason to despair!" the doctor declares. For the rest of the film, we follow, in abridged form, the ups and downs of 1920s therapeutic process, portrayed once again in Metzner's brilliant surrealism, until at last Dr. Orth effects his cure through a triumphant interpretation of Fellman's first, troubling dream.

Like psychoanalysis, Secrets of a Soul is not "Jewish." But also like psychoanalysis, it has an organic connection to the particular world of pre-World War II central Europe, one impacted so deeply by the varied expressions of cultural and intellectual contributions of its Jewish community. To me this makes the film, in addition to its beauty, a powerful spotlight on an important moment in Jewish German cultural history.

(1) Eli Zaretsky, Secrets of the Soul: A Social and Cultural History of Psychoanalysis (2004), 145–146. I am indebted to Professor Zaretsky for the factual content (including quotations) of this paragraph.

Seekers of Happiness

Towards the end of Seekers of Happiness, which is set in Birobidzhan—a territory designated for Jewish colonization in the Soviet Far East—Natan, a collective farm chairman, detects a footprint of a shoe he proclaims to be "foreign." On the trail to capture a man accused of beating another Jewish settler, Natan inadvertently hints at the metacontext of the film. Namely, the film aims to showcase a family of Jewish migrants, who had left the shtetl for Palestine but then moved to the Soviet Union. The film's main goal is to sniff out a "foreign" element resistant to the ideology that settling Jews on the land would help cure the degenerate economic condition typical of the newly defunct Pale of Settlement.

This film about Birobidzhan, though once dismissed as mere propaganda, can, in fact, teach us a lot. How to detect the codes of an ideological work of art, for example, is itself an important interpretative skill. Like many Socialist Realist works, Seekers of Happiness skillfully performs its ideology through a rather conventional plot: Natan is in love with Basya, who is married to Pinya Kopman, the film's "foreign" villain who is resistant to Soviet innovation. Natan is frequently depicted in proximity to a portrait of Stalin—and so, ridding Basya of Pinya allows for Stalin to enter the familial structure by proxy.

But the film is, at the same time, a terrific exhibit of how an intended ideological message shows its cracks when odd details of the work are examined. For example, on the train to Birobidzhan, Pinya and his family meet and are greeted by a strange man playing "Israel's Lament on the Banks of the Amur River." The name of the song evokes the words of Psalm 137, thus presenting the river demarcating one of the borders of the Birobidzhan region as a replacement for "the rivers of Babylon." Birobidzhan here is the newest exilic topos in a long chain of Jewish displacement—rather than the "Red Zion" it was supposed to be.

Readings such as this one ask us to reconcile the film's intended ideology with details that chip away at the same message from the inside in order to produce a complex cultural artifact of the Soviet Jewish experience.

I taught "Introduction to Jewish Studies" for the first time this past semester (Spring 2014). I let my students know at the very first meeting that the course wasn't going to be an introduction to Jewish religion, or Jewish history, or even Jewish literature. Although I think that a lot of students come to an "Introduction to Jewish Studies" expecting some or all of these things, I am fortunate to teach in a program that offers other courses that specialize in these matters. Because I am a historian, I did bring a sense of trajectory and structure to the course by relying on a broad-based narrative of Jewish history from a textbook. But my main objective for the course, week in and week out, was to provide an introduction to just what it is that Jewish Studies scholars do. As students read pieces from the textbook, I assigned them a brief scholarly article for each classroom session, engaging questions pertaining to the period about which they had read. We spent much of our time in class discussing the ways the author of the scholarly article intended to intervene in the field and to make a contribution to the literature. By exposing students to a range of scholars and methodological approaches, they got a taste of the breadth of Jewish Studies scholarship.

However, Jewish Studies scholars constantly engage primary sources directly using those methodological tools to tackle the central questions of Jewish history. To give students a taste of the role primary sources play in the field, I asked students to read selections of primary sources that animated both the narrative material in the textbook and the questions in the secondary literature.

I structured students' writing assignments to mimic the scholarly process: students were asked to participate in a library session exposing them both to hard copy and electronic resources, to write book reviews, to prepare an annotated bibliography and a paper abstract (they actually presented their abstracts to each other at the end of the course), and finally to draft a brief paper that outlined the major scholarly trends on a question of their own choosing. I hope they left my course with a facility with the basic research tools and a sense of the richness of methods Jewish Studies scholars employ, as well as an exposure to the broad arc of the Jewish historical experience.

Although Jewish American culture is most commonly associated with East Coast urban metropolises, in actuality Kentucky has a Jewish history as rich and deep as the Bluegrass itself. Some of the people, products, and places most strongly associated with Kentucky have Jewish chapters in their histories. For example, the Gratz family of Lexington and the Simon family of Louisville were related and both served instrumental roles in the development of Kentucky's two largest cities. In business, the bourbon founder Jim Beam descended from Jacob Boehm (a German Jewish immigrant). The Jewish bourbon connection lives on today in Heaven Hill, one of the last remaining family-owned distilleries, revived after Prohibition by the five Shapira brothers. And, in humanities, the epic poem "Kentucky," written by Israel Jacob Schwartz, tells of Jewish acculturation within the state and remains a seminal work within American Jewish history and literature.

Kentucky is unique because Jewish heritage is everywhere but not always immediately visible. Because of this not-yet-fully-recognized ubiquity, students at the University of Kentucky are taught a broad range of methods and approaches to both Jewish topics in the commonwealth and beyond. Part of our shared scholarly adventure is to map the unchartered territory of Kentucky's Jewish heritage. Using oral history, archival, and rhetorical methods we work together to represent Kentucky Jewish communities' diversity and to integrate their perspectives with the more familiar narratives of Jewish identity, history, and culture in the commonwealth, the United States, and the world beyond. Students learn about this rich Kentucky "Jewgrass" heritage first hand in several ways. In collaboration with the Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History and local Kentucky Jewish community members, they work to both analyze and conduct oral history interviews. Students learn methods for uncovering, interpreting, and curating primary archival materials as well as creating and constructing new repositories of artifacts both digital and print. As a rhetorician, I find it helpful to use the tools of my trade (an understanding of audience, rhetorical purpose, and exigence) to help students engage the issues they encounter in the primary materials and our Jewish Studies courses and to better understand the texts they encounter. Our goal as a faculty is to not only teach the diversity of Jewish Kentucky history, culture, and heritage, but also to teach the tools for knowledge construction and understanding so that this heritage can be both preserved and generative.

At the University of Kentucky, we offer a minor in Jewish Studies, which means that (as of yet) there is no official course in methods. Instead, every course we teach must engage in some discussion of why Jewish Studies matters and how one best studies it. For the Kentucky Commonwealth students we meet in our classes, who are mostly non-Jewish students, Jewish Studies is important because it simultaneously offers a local context and a global passport to world history, literature, languages, and culture. And while some students may have never met a Jewish person or encountered Jewish ideas before arriving on campus, our courses enable them to put Jewish history, thought, and culture in both local and transnational perspective. Our minors graduate with first-hand experience accessing, analyzing, and helping to generate primary materials and strong research and writing skills that enable them to contextualize, interpret, and intervene in complex rhetorical situations both inside and outside of the classroom.

The main subjects usually covered in "Introduction to Jewish Studies" courses are Jewish history, beliefs, and practices. That is a huge amount and each instructor develops her or his own style. I am a historian so I begin with history, which I think is necessary to understand the development of beliefs and practices. History also encompasses topics in which some students have particular interest: the Bible; the relationship of Judaism to Christianity; the Holocaust; the State of Israel; and contemporary Jewry.

There is usually a core textbook to which other readings—primary and secondary— are attached. After trying a number of these I now use Nicholas de Lange's excellent Introduction to Judaism. It is readable, it covers the topics I want to discuss, and it avoids most of the denominational slant that colors many introductory works. Instructors often use Barry Holtz's standard Back to the Sources. I have not found a text reader that really works for me so I cobble sources together from various places. Many of them are now available free on the internet.

One problem I have found teaching the introduction is the varying levels of student knowledge, from the day-school slackers to people who never met a Jew before arriving at Ohio State. A few years ago I was doing my standard "all of Jewish history in forty minutes" schtick (with jokes, of course). I had just hit minute four—Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—and I thought I was doing great, when a student in the second row put up her hand. "I have no idea what you are talking about," she said. "I don't know anything about these people and I have no idea what you're saying." She was applauded. I had to rethink the assumptions I could make about student knowledge. This is tricky and I have no clear solution.

When I first started teaching Jewish Studies I took a "best athlete" route; I invited colleagues from across the disciplines to engage the students in the ways they "did" Jewish Studies. But the students lacked context and instead of seeing a synthesis of disparate methods, they saw a chaotic mishmash. So I began teaching it as a history of an idea: starting with the early Wissenschaftlers we traced the development of the study of Judaism "in its fullest scope" from Immanuel Wolf's description of the aspiring field in 1822 to its realization in colleges and universities in the twentieth century. But we found that approach too dry; the students wanted the opportunity to pry apart the political aspirations of each generation. So we turned instead toward an investigation of academic programs throughout the United States and Canada and assessed the requirements for Jewish Studies minors and majors: language offerings ("just" Hebrew or were Arabic, Persian, Yiddish, or Ladino available and acceptable?), programmatic structure (chronological or subject focused or by discipline), which departments offered the majority of courses, and the presence of an introduction to or capstone in Jewish Studies. We were surprised that hardly anyone seemed to teach a class that looked at Jewish Studies broadly, as a field in its own right, as a multidisciplinary lens through which to view a multitude of subjects. And so my students designed their dream class: historical context was followed by star lectures from across campus, and students presented semester-long projects on topics informed by their favorite academic discipline.

Next time, I will include social media and an examination of the multitude of Jewish organizations offering real-time learning on web-based platforms and in mini-conferences. In the six years since I last taught the class, Jewish Studies has exploded beyond the borders of the university. Its fullest scope includes all the portals through which people learn and engage in Jewish learning, even the study about the study itself.

I don't teach "Introduction to Jewish Studies." In some ways, this is an accident of curriculum: instead we have "Introduction to Judaism" and introductory Jewish history courses, and I've taught each. But in other ways, this arrangement is relevant—even central—to larger questions about teaching Jewish Studies. Parallel to the pedagogical question about how we teach Jewish Studies is the disciplinary question of how we know what to teach.

From where I stand, Jewish Studies isn't a discipline or a method, and herein lie both the assets of interdisciplinarity and flexibility, but also the challenges of articulating a body of knowledge or a set of skills our students should have. Where is the intellectual core of Jewish Studies? Is it the study of descent-based groups of people we call Jews? Is it the study of text? How is it related to religion? Donors, foundations, campus Hillels, and institutional structures all stake claims on this. For instance, whether Jewish Studies is a nondepartmental "center," a subsection of Religious Studies or History, or an "area studies" unit implicitly shapes the method and the student experience of Jewish Studies.

At its worst, an unidentified method or discipline can lead to unreflective valuing of all things Jewish merely because they are Jewish, and our students come away with little more than a more robust version of narratives they might hear at a Jewish day school. But at its best, it equips our students to engage with the real world, which rarely respects the boundaries of academic disciplines. Jewish Studies students can ask, for instance, how we have come to live in a world where personal history, cultural affinity, DNA, family structure, and religious observance all compete for the authority to define Jewishness. And this kind of rich and subtle questioning, in my eyes, is a central goal of Jewish Studies.

My introductory course in Jewish Studies is entitled "Judaism: Before the Law." It is a humanistic exploration of "the Law" as a concept that arises from, but also transcends, Jewish thought and practice. Students begin with the Law of Moses in the Hebrew Bible, and over the course of the semester are introduced to the rabbinic distinction between "Oral Law" and "Written Law," medieval philosophical justifications for the Law, modern interpretations of the Law as Moral Law, Hasidic challenges to the centrality of the Law, and twentieth-century Jewish fiction that is haunted by a felt absence of the Law. The course also covers the nature of rabbinic authority, methods of Jewish legal interpretation and innovation, and Halakhah as it pertains specifically to women, Gentiles, idolaters, food consumption, and the Land of Israel. In addition, the course addresses non-Jewish depictions of Judaism as essentially legalistic. Students learn how Judaism came to be stigmatized as dead letter contrasted to living spirit, corrupt flesh contrasted to pure soul, and antagonistic particularism contrasted to benevolent universalism. They investigate the origin and legacy of Immanuel Kant's claim that "strictly speaking Judaism is not a religion at all" but merely individuals "of a particular stock" who have established themselves under "purely political laws." They trace this line of thought from Paul through Spinoza and Kant to contemporary thinkers like Giorgio Agamben and Alain Badiou. Course materials include classical sources from the Talmud and Midrash, modern philosophical texts by Franz Rosenzweig, Leo Strauss, and Joseph Soloveitchik, Shakespeare's The Merchant of Venice, Kafka's The Trial with his parable "Before The Law," short stories by Bernard Malamud, Woody Allen's film Crimes and Misdemeanors, and ethnographic accounts of contemporary Jewish observance. In general, I hold the view that an introduction to Jewish Studies ought to show students how the study of Jews, Jewishness, and Judaism can be a valuable exercise in humanistic inquiry. By "humanistic inquiry" I mean investigation into human thoughts, practices, and institutions as they emerge and vary in different places and times.

I have never taught an introduction to Jewish Studies per se, which would give students an overview to the various methods and approaches that scholars take when they look at people who identify as Jews. Being housed in a department of Religion, my introductory class is an introduction to Judaism. In one semester, I take students on a whirlwind tour that begins with the sacrificial cult of ancient Israelite religion and ends with Rabba Sara Hurwitz, the dean of Yeshivat Maharat. I have long wondered whether learning outcomes for such a class might be improved if the course were spread out over a year, but there is something about the quick pace that prohibits students from getting too comfortable with any form of Judaism as marking a site of truth, with respect to which all other forms become deviant and false. (Undergraduates, especially in the American South, are more invested in truth than most contemporary philosophers.) On the first day of this class, I introduce my students to the work of Gershom Scholem, particularly some comments on Judaism from fifty years ago that were published posthumously under the title "Judaism." That essay begins by claiming that "Judaism cannot be defined according to its essence, since it has no essence." Whether my students are Jewish or Christian, religious or secular, they start out skeptical of the worth of Scholem's resistance to any and all abstract accounts of Judaism. But after examining such phenomena as the centralization of worship to the Jerusalem Temple in the Book of Deuteronomy, the collapse of Deuteronomistic frameworks of suffering in the rabbinic period (and later, in post-Holocaust theology), the difference between Midrashic and Maimonidean approaches to biblical texts, the radical accounts of creation in Kabbalah, and the existence of a proudly feminist Orthodox Judaism, my students are sufficiently dizzied that they can acknowledge the truth of Scholem's claim that the study of Judaism is nothing more and nothing less than the study of Jews.

For Scholem, this meant that there was no choice but to affirm the State of Israel as "the living force of the people of Israel," but such a claim falls into the same problems of abstraction that Scholem decried in Jewish theology. In a time when "just Jewish" is a sociological term of art and Birthright trips are yet another manifestation of college hookup culture, Judaism can be taught as itself, as just as ordinary as any other religious tradition. The political potential of such a pedagogy is greater than we scholars might realize.

While the University of Pittsburgh does not offer an "Introduction to Jewish Studies" course, I started teaching a survey of modern Jewish history when I joined the faculty of Religious Studies in the fall of 2011. From the outset, I wanted to avoid rendering the histories of non-Ashkenazic and non-male Jews as secondary or marginal, the stuff of "special topics" on women and Sephardim. My goal was not necessarily to replace the famous men who have traditionally been studied in surveys of modern Jewish history with a new pantheon of Jewish women and non-Europeans (though I did some of this as well). Rather, I wanted to acknowledge the geopolitical and gender dynamics that allowed generations of scholars to present the experiences, concerns, and cultural productions of Ashkenazic Jewish men as the defining material of modern Jewish history. And of course, I wanted to do this in a way that was engaging and not too convoluted or complicated.

Serendipitously, my first semester teaching the modern Jewish history survey coincided with the release of the third edition of Paul Mendes-Flohr and Jehuda Reinharz's The Jew in the Modern World: A Documentary History (Oxford University Press, 2010). I was delighted to discover that unlike the previous editions, the new edition included a wealth of illuminating primary sources that addressed the concerns and experiences of Jewish women and non-European Jews, and I assigned many of these documents to my students.

As I soon discovered, however, a large percentage of my students had purchased used, second-edition copies of the book that did not include the new texts. Rather than get annoyed by this, I decided to use it as a teaching opportunity. We began our primary source discussions by talking about which of the assigned texts could only be found in the newer third edition, and why this might have been the case. Analyzing their textbooks offered my students a concrete and entirely accessible way to think about how, for better or for worse, the study of Jewish history always reflects the choices and assumptions of the scholars who create it.

The Passover ditty Dayyenu reminds us that many approaches "would suffice us" to introduce Jewish history, Judaism, or Jewish Studies. Any good university-level course needs to keep Schwab's four-fold distinction of instructor, student, subject, and milieu in mind. Our program at the University of Oklahoma sits at the buckle of the Bible Belt, although I've seen that dubious distinction claimed by colleges from Florida to Ohio. Since many of our students understand religion as synonymous with Christianity, I present Judaism as a developing religious system (including the preference of praxis over creed, the importance of fictive kinship, the privileging of the Hebrew alphabet, the ethnic dimensions of Jewishness, and the startling discontinuities among different historical eras). I have had students who are legitimately surprised to discover that Jews do not practice the religion of the "Old Testament," and I am reasonably sure they are not twelfth-century friars. A good argument can be made for interdisciplinarity rather than multidisciplinarity as a pedagogic goal—actual integration of approaches rather than multiple approaches encountered sequentially in different departments. But at a public university scratching at the coveted "Top 100" designation, I am satisfied with mere disciplinarity. If I can convey a set of useful Religious Studies concepts (e.g. ritual objects, sacred texts, liturgical units, prayer book reforms) and also teach students how to put on their historians' glasses and interrogate the presuppositions, possible counter-arguments, and general context of written documents, I am ready to declare victory—for that semester at least.

To paraphrase Hillel—all the rest is tactics, go and study. Every instructor ought to maximize his/her advantages and minimize her/his failings. I am a Jew by birth (this should not be assumed) and shul goer by inclination (this should definitely not be assumed); I feel comfortable doing reality checks or poking a little fun at the realia of Jewish life—especially if it illuminates elite versus folk versions of the same. I am untutored in Gender Studies, so while I make a point of devoting time to women's history and flagging obviously patriarchal features of Judaism, this approach is not at the center of my syllabus. I am past fifty, so while I instruct via Powerpoint and YouTube, I also have students read documents aloud in class, learn texts in h . evruta, or write their own teshuvot before seeing Rambam's or Rashi's (e.g., Should I say God of our Fathers if I am a convert? May I divorce my wife for boils?). I hold students accountable for a considerable amount of reading, providing them with a reading guide for each of our four textbooks. I also assign several one-page papers with very specific prompts. The only "higher critical skills" I cultivate are reading, writing, and speaking. Relative to the academy at large, I am a positivist and an optimist: I believe there is material worth mastering and I believe our students are capable of achieving a great deal within a twelve-week or fifteen-week (at OU) semester. How one teaches Jewish Studies is how one should teach anything: with the conviction that it matters.

The activities of conventional scholarship tend to be solitary ones: reading, reflecting, writing. The scholar faces her laptop, attending, examining, and arranging many precepts. But teaching is (supposed to be) predominantly a social activity. The magic of learning is not in the rote transmission of knowledge, etching facts on the tablet of the student's heart, but in the experience of debating meaning. The assigned reading material in an "Introduction to the Hebrew Bible" course seems self-evident from the title: students are introduced to ancient Israelite religion and culture through the lens of a textual canon. Yet how does one create the experience of dialogue out of texts composed by individuals who no longer walk this earth? The challenge of revivifying ancient texts can be mitigated by an appeal to the three-dimensional world out of which these texts emerged—a recreation of the social world of ancient Israel and early Judaism— and the tradition of dialogue surrounding the text in Judaism. In my courses I try to recreate the multisensory experience of the world the text represents, teaching a practicum in ancient Near Eastern cuisine, bringing in material objects from excavations for students to hold (and hopefully not break!), and having students re-enact the narratives. We also discuss the place of text in Jewish practice, like the performance of 'Eshet H . ayil at the Shabbat table and the reliving of the Exodus narrative during the Passover seder, to give the written a lived context. Examining how texts are performed in Jewish practice can also give a glimpse into their reception history and can connect to the life of the text in contemporary religious communities. These activities draw students out of the written word and into dynamic experiences that they can identify with and learn from.

As a professor of Jewish Studies, I feel responsible to the Jewish community to the same extent that I think any academic ought to feel responsible to the public, not more and not less. It should go without saying that universities and their faculties should be answerable only to themselves since this is our best guarantee of intellectual freedom. At the same time, however, since universities in the United States are part of a larger democratic culture, and contribute to this culture in important ways, I think that professors are obliged to make their work available to the public when appropriate. In my view, the proper relation between professors of Jewish Studies and the Jewish community is not unlike the proper relationship between the establishment and free exercise clauses of the American Constitution. On the one hand, the Jewish community (along with any other community or individuals) does not and should not have any authoritative standing with regard to Jewish Studies. But on the other hand, the Jewish community is and should be free to take an interest in Jewish Studies. When I look at this question from a personal rather than professional point of view, I do hope of course that the Jewish community takes an interest in Jewish Studies. I think that Jews of all stripes (as well as many other people) have lots to learn from the work that is done in Jewish Studies (I include myself here as a learner). I would assume that I speak for many if not most professors of Jewish Studies in saying that I think that more intellectual, critical engagement is always a good thing for the Jewish community.

On a personal level, the formulation of this question is troubling in that it conveys the notion that serving the Jewish People is construed as a byproduct of my service as a professor of Jewish Studies. In point of fact, the reverse is true. My decision to pursue an academic career as a sociologist of American Jewry—taken as an 18-year-old Columbia College junior—took shape as a direct consequence of my strongly held intention to serve the Jewish People. My entire career (except for a four-year interlude as an assistant professor when I wrote articles on ethnicity in pursuit of tenure) has been entirely devoted to exploring issues of policy relevance to Jewish communal life.

Thus, my research has been animated by, and enriched by, the most urgent questions being asked by Jewish communal leaders. These generally revolve around the central issue of the quality of Jewish life and how it can be improved. Accordingly, I've addressed my writings, directly or obliquely, to the most energetic areas of contemporary discourse in Jewish communal life. By way of illustration, I've sought to:

1. Demonstrate that which should be intuitively known (e.g., various forms of intensive Jewish education produce clear positive consequences).
2. Add nuance to our collective murky understanding of emerging trends (e.g., The Sovereign Jewish Self and The Jew Within).
3. Spark debate about vital issues (distancing of younger American Jews from Israel, largely due to intermarriage).
4. Develop innovative policy responses and rationales (e.g., on intermarriage, presenting myself as an "empirical hawk" and a "policy dove").
5. Advance thinking on practice and policy for leaders (as in Sacred Strategies for congregational leaders).
6. Promote particular ways of thinking about Jewish engagement (e.g., as a culture and nationality rather than a Western religious identity).

I see my "students" as located outside the classroom, with communal professionals, lay leaders, and philanthropists uppermost in my mind, along with colleagues and other social scientists. And, I've sought collaborative relationships, having co-authored works with at least sixty different colleagues over the years. In short, contributing to Jewish life is intrinsic to my academic mission.

As modern Jewish scholars, all of us, irrespective of our fields, are the heirs to a small band of German-Jewish intellectuals who gathered together in 1822 to found The Society for the Academic Study of the Jews. While we would no longer subscribe to the Society's goal of bringing the Jews "to the same point of development reached by the rest of Europe," we can and should still be guided by Paragraph 3 of the Society's founding statutes: "the society should work from above by promoting significant and rigorous projects, assuring their accessibility and interest to the largest possible audience." From the very beginning then, the founders recognized, in my opinion quite rightly, that scholars of Jewish Studies have a responsibility to the Jewish community, that the fruit of our labors was not merely to be passed from hand to hand among a small band of academics but that it be shared with the broadest possible audience.

There are several important reasons why this should be so. One of the most important features of Jewish Studies programs is that we take seriously the statute's demand for rigor. By adopting that as a guiding principle, Jewish Studies programs have avoided becoming advocacy programs—I am well aware of increasing pressures, especially when it comes to the subject of Israel—and we remain guided by the goal of producing rigorous scholarship. That pursuit of excellence has endowed Jewish Studies with credibility and has been of incalculable value in assisting with the proliferation of Jewish Studies programs because donors and university administrators alike wish to be associated with excellence. And it is here that we have a genuine partnership with the Jewish community. No small number among the readers of this piece, owe their positions to the generosity of Jewish philanthropists, whose commitment to Jewish Studies makes our work possible and ensures that will be the case for future scholars.

There is another reason that we should feel a sense of responsibility to the Jewish community and it is that we in Jewish Studies are in the happy position of having a curious and eager audience. In my own field of History, in a department of around sixty faculty, very few would ever have the opportunity to speak to people outside the academy. This is simply not true of Jewish Studies scholars and we should count ourselves as fortunate because of it. And as weak as the publishing market may well be, it is still the case that hardly any ethnic group in the United States purchases scholarly monographs to the extent that members of the Jewish community do. Jews thirst to learn more about their history, their culture, and their sacred texts and call upon us to teach them. I believe it is our responsibility to honor their call. There is no more eloquent testimony to this position than that articulated by Franz Rosenzweig. In his 1920 inaugural address to the Lehrhaus, the adult education school he founded in Frankfurt, Rosenzweig declared: "They [the students] have come together in order to 'learn'—for Jewish 'learning' includes Jewish 'teaching'."

Although I am not a Jewish Studies professor, all of my research as a cultural and linguistic anthropologist has been about contemporary North American Jews. My responsibility, as I see it, to the Jewish community is to have anthropology and research on Jews inform each other. The Jewish experience has much to offer anthropological theory building, and anthropology can make Jewish Studies relevant to a wider audience. I aim to put the study of Jews in a comparative framework, so that those who study religious life, for example, or language, or race might easily include Jews too. My responsibility is to clarify these points of intersection, where the Jewish community and others can have conversations.

An anthropological lens forces us beyond Jewish particularism, posing broader questions about difference and cultural relativism. Ethnography requires scholars to make their own positioning explicit, placing the politics of representation center stage. The Jewish experience pushes social theory building as well. For example, considerations of Jews reveal alternative models of modernity located in the heart of western urban centers; Jewish languages offer surprising counterexamples to assumptions about the relationship between language and identity; and the recent Jewish experience asks questions of how diasporas change over time.

I hope that my commitment to creating new conversations between Jews and anthropology challenges us, as academics and humans, to continue to struggle with all kinds of responsibilities to all kinds of communities.

The question posed by this symposium has haunted the proponents of the academic study of Jewish Studies ever since the founding of the discipline in Germany at the beginning of the nineteenth century. The overarching objective of the early generations of Wissenschaft des Judentums, which is technically a field of study rather than a specific discipline, sought to have the study of Judaism included in the university curriculum, where it would be acknowledged as an integral component of the intellectual and spiritual heritage of educated humanity. As such, the academic study of Judaism and Jewish civilization should be open to all, Jews and non-Jews alike. Just as there are Jews who are scholars of Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, and, indeed, of Christianity, there should be non-Jews who study Judaism. This vision of course is in accord with the cultural and axiological premise of the modern university. To be sure, the pursuit of this objective met resistance on the part of the custodians of the German universities, and it was not until after the Shoah that the academic study of Judaism took firm root in Germany, and elsewhere in Europe and North America.

It is in the shadow of Auschwitz that Jewish Studies has found an honored place within the discourse of the humanities. The question posed by the symposium cannot be readily extricated from this existential context. On the one hand, as an academic discipline Jewish Studies is beholden solely to the Owl of Minerva, whose sapient gaze transcends specific ethnic and religious concerns. On the other hand, one cannot ignore the existential reality that in its present historical configuration, Jewish Studies is intricately bound with Jewish memory and hence a responsibility to the Jewish community.

I fear I have no easy prescription to deal with the attendant dilemma. As an academic I am a member of a universal community bound by an uncompromising allegiance to rigorous codes of scholarly inquiry. At the same time, the imperatives of Jewish memory—as well as abiding cultural and social commitments to the people of my birth—do not allow me to maintain a studied detachment from the Jewish community. To the degree that I am involved in the life of the community, I am hesitant to do so under the mantle of a professor of Jewish Studies. Without elaborating here, I am not certain whether my academic learning constitutes the type of authority needed by the community. I am willing to share my knowledge, of course, but not as a sage who speaks ex cathedra; and certainly not in order to undermine the normative authority of the rabbinate.

Years ago, when extremists claimed that Jews bore disproportionate responsibility for American slavery, I was one of the academics who sought to set the record straight. A Jewish communal leader, knowing of my work, contacted me for an essay. "Can you send me 5,000 words proving that Jews had nothing to do with the slave trade," he asked. When I refused, protesting that that would be a lie, since some Jews were indeed involved in the nefarious trade even though their impact upon the history of slavery was miniscule, the leader exploded. "What good are you professors for the Jewish community," he shouted at me. "On the rare occasions when I need you, you disappoint me."

The episode helped to clarify for me my responsibilities as a Jewish Studies professor who is simultaneously a proud member of the Jewish community. I cannot, under any circumstances, compromise my professional integrity for the community (if I did, what good would I be?). But I can, if I choose, serve as a communal resource and activist. As such, I may inform, instruct, inspire, influence, innovate, incite, irritate, infuriate, and otherwise impact upon the Jewish community (restricting myself here only to verbs beginning with the letter "i"). I might do the same, as a citizen, on behalf of my country.

But I am in no way required to do so.

With the globalization of the academy and the normalization of Jewish Studies, there are many professors in the United States today who are not citizens of the United States, and likewise many members of the Association for Jewish Studies who are not themselves Jewish. They may well make other decisions than I do concerning their roles as community resources and activists. But if a Jewish communal professional asked them to lie on behalf of the Jewish community, I hope that they would still say no.

I teach Judaism at Loyola University, a Jesuit Catholic institution. I teach primarily courses that count for the Core requirement in Theology, and the vast majority of my students are not Jewish. As the first Jew that many of them have encountered, I have a responsibility to challenge any anti-Jewish preconceptions they have been taught. Many of them, for example, see Jews as "legalistic," which they see as the opposite of "spiritual." Others don't understand how Jews can have any concept of forgiveness without Christ. Part of my responsibility to the Jewish community is to interrupt anti-Jewish ways of thinking so they don't continue into the next generation of the Catholic world and to replace them with a more nuanced picture. I think this is my responsibility to the Catholic community as well.

I also believe that I am responsible for representing the Jewish world in all its diversity, including aspects of it that may be more challenging to my students. Students need to know about secular Judaism, for example, even though by not being faith-centered it challenges their ideas of what Judaism (or any religion) should be, because it is a form of Judaism that they are likely to encounter. I am similarly responsible for teaching the variety of Jewish denominations. Otherwise, students may simply take their anti-Jewish projections and apply them to a variety of Judaism to which they feel less connected. It is important to me, therefore, to expose them to a wide range of Jewish ideas. I am careful to never disclose what kind of Judaism I practice or where I stand on any of the debates, lest the students think that is the "right" answer, or the only one they need to know for the final exam, because as the only person teaching Judaism at Loyola I feel responsible to the entire Jewish community.