At the 2015 conference, AJS inaugurated the first fundraising campaign of its half-century history. In the first year, we have raised nearly $50,000. With an annual budget of $1,000,000, and virtually no track record of individual donations, this is an impressive amount. Called AJS@50, our campaign is named in recognition of AJS's upcoming fiftieth anniversary in 2019, a long way from its humble origins in Boston in the late 1960s. AJS past president Jonathan Sarna spearheaded the campaign, recognizing the importance of setting the organization on firm ground for future decades and providing new opportunities (research and travel grants, professional development, etc.) for our members. David Myers has chaired our Development Committee from its inception, and has brought to this role the same vision and leadership that enabled him to build up UCLA's Center for Jewish Studies. AJS president Pamela Nadell and the Board of Directors sagely guide us in our development efforts, along with our Development Committee—Joyce Antler, Judith Baskin, David Ellenson, James Loeffler, Deborah Dash Moore, Lawrence Schiffman, Suzanne Stone, and Jonathan Sarna—who give of their time and talents to ensure AJS's growth and continued success.
For a learned society and membership association to fundraise among its members may seem surprising. We are already so grateful for the dues that more than 2,000 scholars pay annually, as well as the conference registration fees that more than 1,200 members pay on top of that. But as an organization that launches new programs and provides new services year after year, these fees cover only 50 percent of operating expenses. The rest needs to come from an array of revenue streams; among them, donations—the staple of any not-for-profit organization—are especially important.
AJS's ambitions and energy match those of its members. When we hear, for instance, that conference childcare is imperative for young scholars who attend the annual meeting, we go out and raise funds to make this happen. (And we hope many of you will take advantage of the childcare program being offered in San Diego this December!) When members tell us they want more professional development, especially in the area of careers beyond academia, we create a yearlong webinar series that can reach our members wherever they are in the world, at any time of day. When we know that Jewish Studies scholars need a modern website to showcase their scholarship, their programs' work, and information about the field, we invest in a top-of-the-line redesign of ajsnet.org, to launch in the spring of 2017. None of these initiatives could have happened without the AJS@50 campaign.
Members have shared their many reasons for supporting AJS@50, in personal notes sent along with checks or by email. Some are very senior scholars, grateful for all AJS has meant to them over their careers and even more thankful for the work we do to help their students launch theirs. Some donors are junior scholars and graduate students, who received an award from AJS that bolstered their confidence, or a travel grant that enabled them to attend a conference. Some contributors are deeply concerned about conditions for adjunct faculty, and designate their donations to go towards the AJS travel grant program. And some members wish to recognize a beloved teacher or advisor with a donation in their honor. We receive checks for $10. We receive checks for several thousand dollars. Each is meaningful, and each allows us to do more for our members and the field.
Over 2017, you will hear more about the AJS@50 campaign, as well as other opportunities to support exciting new projects. Our mission at AJS is to help Jewish Studies scholars and programs thrive, and to bring the insights of Jewish Studies to audiences beyond the academy's walls. We extend thanks to all who have helped to support this mission in the first year of our campaign, and appreciation to
Association for Jewish Studies