What development in Jewish studies over the last twenty years has most excited you?

Sarah Abrevaya Stein


Breaking Out

The dynamism of an academic field can be measured not by how strictly its boundaries are defined or defended, but by the frequency and ease with which they are trespassed. Over the last twenty years—a period in which three scholarly generations have labored simultaneously, at times in synchronicity, at times in dynamic tension—Jewish studies has benefited magnificently from the blurring of "outside" and "inside." Our scholarship has been enriched as we have begun to turn to sites, sources, languages, and realms of inquiry once viewed as extra-canonical; to publish in journals and book series that reach well beyond the field; to alter (and resist) assumptions about the personal, professional, and political background of Jewish studies professionals; to rethink the chronologies, typologies, geographies, and watershed moments that once framed our classes; to train students as regional or disciplinary or temporal generalists as well as specialists; as, in short, we have begun to broaden our intellectual and institutional communities. What is left, holding us together? Our shared determination to write about things Jewish; to wrestle with how this category ("Jewish") matters, and when it reaches its epistemological limits. Happily, we are left building while simultaneously breaking out.