Over 1,200 professors and assorted scholars, teachers and other professionals converged on a Boston hotel conference center earlier this week to attend the 45th Annual Conference of the Association for Jewish Studies, the largest gathering in the organization’s history. Presentations on Jewish Identity and International Pop Music, a panel on using social media as a tool for Jewish history research and talks on Medieval Jewish Marriage and Kabbalah as Literature were among its 190 sessions.
Organizers said the conference’s size and breadth reflected a field that has been growing in recent decades and even thriving although its scholars and students also face the same challenges faced by the humanities in general in an era of budget cutbacks and increasingly scarce tenure track jobs.
The field has expanded far beyond the world of Jewish texts, literature and history with a growing focus on areas including gender and sexuality, cultural studies, food studies, Diaspora studies, economic history, and the study of Israel and the Arab-Israeli conflict.
But as undergraduate students, increasingly fearful of their job prospects in a tough economy often seek out courses that they think will help them later professionally, professors and lecturers offering Jewish studies courses have had to reach out and argue what they teach is relevant once they leave campus as well.
Read more at Haaretz.