Panels are where the business of the AJS conference happens. At worst, theyâ€™re dry presentations of old research. At best theyâ€™re engaging conversations about vital issues and ideas. Often, theyâ€™re just somewhere in the middle. Here are some highlights from yesterday and this morningâ€™s panels â€“ mostly quotations.
My panel (where I presented with Steven M. Cohen and Isa Aron about a project weâ€™ve been working on about synagogue transformation) was a good combination of presentation and conversation. I mean, I speak to Isa and Steven all the time about our research and writing, and the conversation that followed was really productive â€“ people asked good questions (â€œwhatâ€™s wrong with congregations that are full of â€˜dwellersâ€™ as opposed to â€˜seekers?â€™â€? or â€œIsnâ€™t change generally more of a Reform thing than a Conservative thing?â€?).
As a presenter, it was actually really helpful, and helped Steven, Isa and me articulate ourselves better.
Later, I went to a panel about â€œOrthodoxy and the Internet.â€? Three papers â€“ one about Orthodox womenâ€™s blogs (â€œdomesticity and the home page: blogging and the blurring of public /private space for orthodox Jewish womenâ€?), another about the opposition to the internet among ultra orthodox communities, and a third paper about frumster.com, and the ways in which spouse-seekers identify themselves.
The Frumster paper (given by Sarah Bunin Ben-Or) gave the third paper, and it was brilliant. Statistics, supplementary questions that Frumster might want to think about adding (â€œwhat do you want to name your children? How many children do you want to have? Do you watch Television?â€?) It was a beautiful analysis and a great powerpoint and it revealed the ways that a seemingly homogeneous population makes many fine-grained distinctions among themselves.
Later that day, was the postdenominational conversation. Here are some highlights: