So, the Association for Jewish Studies conference wrapped up yesterday, and I’ve been ensconced in a post-conference conference until now. More on the post-conference conference in a bit, but for now, some tail-end scraps from the conference.
1. I know that for most folks, the goings-on at the AJS are not exactly front-page news, and that’s cool with me. There is something freeing in not having to speak to policy or immediate application that allows good ideas to brew, develop, and mature.
2. this is often mistaken for being “irrelevant.” not so, not at all.
3. On the last night of the conference Laura Levitt and Miriam Peskowitz threw a little shin-dig for whomever wanted to come, and beatboxer Yuri Lane performed a beat-box re-cap of the conference. He’s genius and quite talented. I went to bed at 12:30, and other folks were still going strong….
Sticking with my sense that the best stuff happens outside the panels, on the last morning of the conference I planned to go to a panel about the Palmach, but I ended up speaking to Rabbi Rebecca Alpert about her work on Jews in sports. She related to me the following: All but one of the owners of the Negro League teams was Jewish, and that Jewish boxers Barney Ross and “Slapsie” Maxie Rosenblook owned teams in the All-Girls’ professional Baseball league.
This is really interesting, and reminded me (to relate back to question #1, above) of a paper that Jonathan Karp (professor, SUNY Binghamton) is working on about Jewish-owned “black” record labels. Which is to say, there is a whole network of complex things going on “behind the scenes” as it were, in the production of black popular culture, too. and the Jewishness of the characters in question is of some debate, too. This is neither something that can be “solved” quickly nor, I think, understood easily. it will take a while to get at what those performances and those relationships mean.
Speaking of time, the most exciting and urgent stuff (for me) went down at the post-conference conference, a working group gathering convened by Synagogue 3000. It was a chance for a bunch of us (about 15) to sit down and think through some research interests and potential research that we want to either undertake or see undertaken soon. these were not easy questions: questions of diversity (in all its diverse stripes), of worship/spirituality/music, of leadership, and of motivations. Fortunately, we had some brilliant people there, and we came out with a good-looking, provocative, and loose research agenda for Synagogue 3000.
Sadly, perhaps, this is about as exciting as the life of an academic gets. I’ll see you all next year in Toronto.
From San Diego, I’m out like a rabbinical student at JTS.