U-M, American Jewish Historical Society, and American Jewish Archives Host First Conference for Ph.D. Students of American Jewish History May 21-May 23


By Kim Reick Kunoff
Apr 29, 2013

During late May 2013, some 15 Ph.D. students of American-Jewish History will gather with U-M Professor Deborah Dash Moore and Beth Wenger (University of Pennsylvania) for several days of workshopping but also to discuss jobs, teaching, and writing strategies.

The idea for the conference grew out of conversations between U-M Ph.D. students Katie Rosenblatt and Ronit Stahl.

“Part of the impetus for this was an ongoing conversation that Ronit and I have had with Deborah [Dash Moore], Matt Lassiter, Gina Morantz-Sanchez, and others about the relationship between the main field of American history and the subfield of American Jewish history,” explains Rosenblatt. “Rather than thinking about American history and Jewish history as two separate fields, we’d like to explore the ways these two fields are related and, in fact, mutually constitutive.  In many ways, this conversation has been a sustained response to a March 2009 article by UC Berkeley professor David Hollinger, “Communalist and Dispersionist Approaches to American Jewish History in an Increasingly Post-Jewish Era.” Hollinger called on American Jewish historians to move beyond communalist strategies that emphasize the internal world of the “Jewish people” and instead to embrace a dispersionist methodology that “might promote stronger and more sustained mutual engagements with other specialists in U.S. history.”  In other words—how do those of us who identify as both American historians and American Jewish historians ask questions and produce scholarship that is relevant to both American and Jewish scholars?  

“More immediately, though, the grad student workshop was an outgrowth of the experience Ronit and I had at the Biennial Scholars Conference in American Jewish History this past June held at the Center for Jewish History.  In addition to giving us the opportunity to meet many scholars, the conference was great because we got to meet and interact with a group of graduate students who are all doing work on various aspects of American Jewish history. Ronit and I both felt after the fact that it would great to find ways to maintain a graduate student community outside of the confines of a biennial conference, to foster a sense of cohort-ness among those of us who work on related topics.”  

“The conference will allow us to workshop dissertation chapters,” adds Stahl, “but I’d suggest that there are other goals as well: providing the space for us to have conversations about professionalization, teaching pedagogy, dissertation writing strategies, etc.  

“We spoke to Deborah about this, and she, as usual, worked her magic, getting the University of Michigan Office of the Vice President for Research, the American Jewish Historical Society, and the American Jewish Archives to partially sponsor a graduate student workshop at Michigan. And, of course, it wouldn't have happened without the support of the Jean & Samuel Frankel Center for Judaic Studies.”