I remember my first AJS conferences well. As a new mother and recent PhD, I was impressed by the intentional creation of a community of communities. There, in the not-so-heimish context of Chicago and Boston corporate hotels, parents like me dropped off their very young children at on-site childcare and hurried off to sessions that we had efficiently mapped out in the program booklet text. I can remember excitedly noting that a session on queer theory had managed to make its way into what I had expected to be a more narrowly imagined Jewish Studies rubric. I also remember attending the oh-so early morning women’s caucus where a Mizrahi feminist scholar spoke with passion and poise.
Over the years, my initial concern over the privileging of “mainstream” Jewish Studies gave way to a sense that AJS celebrates the multiple streams that coexist within the porous boundaries of “the field.” I watched music and art colleagues reimagine the AJS conference by creating new panels and sections that reflected our research interests—and I was reminded of something African American culture historian Bernice Johnson Reagon had said to me years earlier—“If you feel something is missing, it is probably the sound of your own voice.”
In other words, AJS seems to have succeeded in fostering a structure that allows for new voices to enter the conversation. My ideal AJS conference then, would be one that continues to nurture this inclusive sense of tradition and transformation beyond what we can now imagine. If I were to suggest two areas for further development, they would be:
Global reach: find resources for increased numbers of Jewish Studies scholars and students from countries outside of North America to add their voices to the mix.
Multimedia teaching: For seven years I have been teaching a course that is based on blog-bridging, videoconference sessions, and conflict transformation. I coteach the course and study tour “Living Jerusalem: Ethnography and Blogbridging in Disputed Territory” with a Muslim American colleague. I would enjoy a forum devoted to multimedia teaching. If I take Dr. Reagon’s words to heart—I guess it’s time for me to add my voice to the conversation and get this idea off the ground!