What would you like Perspectives to be?

Ranen Omer-Sherman

University of Miami

I have long suspected that a significant number of those of us who consider much of our teaching and scholarship to fall at least to some degree within the astonishingly expansive realm known as Jewish Studies are often troubled by the gaps in our own education. And if any of us are ever in a position to retire we will probably seize on the opportunity to sit in on our colleagues' courses and fill those gaps. Some of us who have never been given the opportunity (or felt prepared) to teach an "Introduction to Jewish Studies" course of our own often spend time fantasizing about just what a course would entail. How would we create connections between the multifarious disciplines that make up our field, not to mention its extraordinary range of temporalities and spatialities? So many questions and opportunities would likely ensue! Hence it seems to me that the future incarnations of Perspectives will serve its community well by opening up spaces for dialogue on such questions as: What are the current scholarly arguments/conversations/controversies guiding Jewish Studies scholars who work within Anthropology, Archeology, Art History, Folklore, Geography, History, Literary Studies, Rabbinics, Sociology, etc.? How has Jewish identity evolved in changing cultural contexts? What about the boundaries between the Jewish and the non-Jewish over time and space? What do scholars working in such areas most want their colleagues in Jewish Studies to know about their work? What useful paradigms of Jewish life and culture enlivening our research and/or classrooms do we wish our colleagues to know more about? What are the open questions that still challenge us? How better might we ensure that Jewish Studies thrive as a truly integrated (rather than fragmented) community of scholars eager to learn from one another and import and transmit forms of knowledge to one another in ways that transcend our separate niches? And, to paraphrase David Biale in his magisterial inquiry Cultures of the Jews, how might we strive to affirm commonalities between the Jewish past and the Jewish present while still respecting all that is richly different, singular, and strange in those disparate continuums? And returning to that question which has nagged me for some time: what are the ideal Jewish texts to include in a truly interdisciplinary "Introduction to Jewish Studies" course? Finally, in our shared quest to learn from one another (and perhaps find some common ground), Perspectives should reflect the lively debates that stimulate the creative inquiries we conduct within separate disciplines, those that may not yet be fully understood by our colleagues but may one day serve as terrific catalysts for their own work in the classroom and beyond.