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What makes a good abstract?

How to Write an Abstract

The paper abstracts, written by the individual scholars but submitted by the session organizer, should explain the presentation’s purpose, methodology, sources, argument and specific contribution to scholarship in the field. Sample session abstractssample individual paper abstracts, and workshops on how to write abstracts can be found on the AJS website.

Note: Accepted abstracts will be made public on the conference program site. Please do not add any information to the abstract that you do not wish to be made public at a future date.

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What is the role of a chair?

The chair is responsible for starting the session on time, briefly introducing the panelists/speakers (no more than one minute each), keeping them to their allotted time, and moderating the Q and A. Ensuring equal time for all presenters is essential, and chairs must be prepared to end a presentation that will clearly exceed the allotted time by several minutes. All panel, seminar and lightning session proposals must include a chairperson (who may also serve as respondent); paper presenters may not chair a session in which they are presenting.

Please note: Seminar chairs are also required to take on the responsibility of ensuring that all seminar papers are prepared and submitted to the AJS by the November 20th deadline.

Guidance for Session Chairs

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What is a respondent?

A respondent addresses wider-ranging reflections of the issues raised in the papers, talking about what Linda K. Kerber describes as “how the strongest elements of the papers, or the relationship between them, add up to something greater than the sum of the parts. Perhaps the papers point to a new direction in research or suggest new issues demanding study.” In traditional panels, respondents will have about ten minutes for their comments, and time for each of the three papers is strictly limited to 15 minutes.

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What is a Division Chair?

AJS Division Chairs are responsible for carefully examining each conference submission in their respective Division during the conference review process. There are typically one or two Division Chairs for each division, who act as chair on a three-year rotating basis. The current Division Chairs are listed here.

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What is a Division?

Divisions reflect various subject areas under which you can submit a proposal to the AJS conference. All permanent divisions have one to two Division Chairs that rotate on a 3-year basis and are given the opportunity to have an annual Division-wide meeting.

Guidelines for Creating New Conference Divisions and Modifying Existing Ones

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What is the Secondary Division Option?

Based on feedback from members interested in promoting greater levels of integration between divisions, we have updated the proposal submission process to allow you to choose a primary and a secondary division to review your proposal. Please note that the primary division you choose will have the first opportunity to accept your paper and the second division may no longer have space to accept your division by the time the division chairs have the opportunity to review your proposal. So, you should still think carefully about your primary and secondary choices. At the same time, we do hope that this process will help place proposals in the best division possible.

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What is the Program Committee?

The AJS Program Committee is a multi-disciplinary panel of experts in Jewish Studies that meets in late May/early June to review Division Chair recommendations and make final decisions for the entire conference program. The Program Committee takes into consideration topics covered by all the divisions, as well as the limitations of time and space. Taking into account the entire gamut of proposed papers and sessions across divisions, the Program Committee attempts to find a place for individual papers that the Division Chairs accepted but could not place into sessions. Program Committee members are appointed to a three-year term. The current Program Committee members can be found here.

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What if I am a scholar/professional outside of Jewish Studies?

The AJS welcomes scholars whose primary research is not within Jewish Studies but whose work has a direct impact on Jewish Studies and whose participation would enhance the annual meeting. The AJS will waive the membership fee requirement for a limited number of session participants who are not academics or individuals who would not otherwise become members of the AJS (e.g., journalists, authors, filmmakers, etc.), and whose participation is considered essential for the integrity of the session to which s/he was invited. Requests for a membership fee waiver must be submitted by the session organizer to the AJS by submitting this request form no later than April 22, 2021. In the form, please explain the session that you are organizing, the role of the proposed participant, and why their role is important to the session. Membership dues waiver recipients are expected to register for the conference at the Annual Income $50-70K rate or higher. Unfortunately, AJS cannot accommodate refunds for membership fees for any reason, including a request in lieu of this fee waiver.

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Can my institution sponsor a session?

Session organizers may request to have an academic institution, research center/archive, learned society, or AJS caucus or working group listed in the program book as the sponsor of their session. There is an area in the session proposal submission process to indicate the session sponsor, if applicable. These sessions must be accepted through the regular submission process.

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How will my proposal be evaluated?

Proposals will first be sent for review to the Division Chair/s. The Division Chairs, who are experts in their respective fields, are appointed by the Vice President for Program for a three-year rotating term. Division Chairs evaluate proposals, for both individual presentations and pre-formed sessions, on the basis of several criteria, including contribution to the field, originality, methodology, and clarity of expression. Division Chairs and the Program Committee are also looking for a diversity of participants in submitted session proposals and in organizing sessions out of individual proposals.

When evaluating an individual paper proposal, chairs will recommend either acceptance or rejection. If recommending acceptance, they will then try to place the proposal in a session with other individual submissions. Division Chairs also evaluate session proposals and make recommendations for acceptance or rejection. If individual paper proposals in a session vary widely in quality, the Division Chair may only accept those of high quality.

The Division Chairs for the primary division and secondary division will have the opportunity to evaluate the submission. Primary division chair(s) will have the chance to accept the submission first.

Division Chairs then rank the sessions they have recommended accepting. This includes both pre-formed sessions and created sessions, formed by Division Chairs out of the individual papers submitted. The Program Committee, a multi-disciplinary panel of experts in Jewish Studies, meets in late May/early June to review these recommendations and make final decisions. Other senior scholars in the field may also assist in this final review process. The Program Committee takes into consideration topics covered by all the divisions, as well as the limitations of time and space. Taking into account the entire gamut of proposed papers and sessions across divisions, the Program Committee attempts to find a place for individual papers that the Division Chairs accepted but could not place into sessions.

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Can I use A/V and media in my session?

The AJS is able to provide one of the following pieces of equipment per presenter: CD player, TV/DVD player, and a limited number of LCD projectors. A maximum of two pieces of equipment will be provided to sessions. The online proposal form will ask you to specify your audio-visual needs and to explain how the requested equipment will be used in your presentation or session. Given the high cost of audio-visual equipment rental (e.g., $800 for a LCD projector; $400 for a DVD player/monitor), the AJS cannot guarantee that all audio-visual requests will be accommodated. The best way to ensure accommodation of your request is to provide a detailed and compelling need for its use (e.g., why the material cannot be shared by handout). Using digital projectors to present outlines of talks or simple text displays does not constitute a compelling need. Please do not request a piece of equipment unless it is essential for your presentation; unnecessary equipment adds significantly to the cost of the conference and registration fees. Those using LCD projectors must provide their own laptops, and speakers are not included with LCD projectors. The AJS cannot accept audio-visual requests after April 29, 2021.

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What if I want to submit a Digital Humanities paper or panel?

The Program Committee encourages submissions in Digital Humanities. If you prefer for your submission to be integrated into one of the divisions, you should submit the proposal to the specific division for review. If your paper/panel addresses Digital Humanities more broadly, you can also submit your proposal directly to the AJS division. If you are unsure, indicate the subject area as the primary division, and use the secondary division option to indicate the AJS division.

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How can I be sure that AJS has received my proposal?

Confirmation of your proposal’s receipt will be sent to the submitter’s email address. The confirmation email will come If you do not receive the submission confirmation, your proposal may not have reached the AJS office. In this case, please follow up with the AJS office to confirm receipt. Please submit your proposal in a timely fashion as the website for submitting proposals will close at 5:00 p.m. EDT, on Thursday, April 29, 2021. If you don’t receive a notification, it is possible the email got caught in your spam folder. If you cannot locate it there, please contact the AJS office (917.606.8249; ) before the submission deadline to confirm that your proposal was received. AJS cannot accept proposals submitted after the deadline.

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When will I find out if my proposal has been accepted?

The AJS office will notify you of decisions on behalf of the Program Committee by email by mid-August. These emails will come from the following email sender:, so please make sure that this email address is whitelisted in your email inbox. Other than the email acknowledgment at the end of the online submission process, there will be no other acknowledgment of receipt before this notice.

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What should I expect to bring with me to my presentation?

All presenting scholars are responsible for bringing their presentation notes for themselves, and providing any handout copies. For most sessions, a minimum of 15 paper handouts is suggested. Should the session space include A/V equipment (based on the submission’s A/V request), each scholar connecting to this equipment is responsible for providing their own laptop and corresponding A/V cables/adaptors to connect with a projector or other player as needed via a (provided) HDMI cable. Seminar organizers are also responsible for providing paper copies for any session attendee who has not already viewed the papers digitally. If you have any questions about this during the submission process or after a session has been accepted and scheduled into a space, please contact

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Can an undergraduate student participate in the AJS Conference?

We invite undergraduate students nearing the end of their undergraduate studies and considering graduate school or a career in Jewish Studies or related fields to join the Association for Jewish Studies and attend the Annual AJS Conference. Undergraduates are not allowed to submit a proposal for presentation.

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What kinds of conference sessions are available during AJS 2021?

This year, the AJS is offering five forms of sessions: Panels , RoundtablesSeminars, Lightning Sessions, and Performance/Scholarship sessions.

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Why does the AJS request that Panels be limited to 3 participants and a chair (or 3 participants, a chair, and a respondent)?

The AJS is committed to creating a conference whose sessions are a place of dialogue and discussion. Based on feedback from members and the division chairs, the program committee determined that panels with four presenters did not allow for sufficient time for a vibrant q&a. Panels will include three 15-minute papers, which should allow for a robust conversation among panelists and audience members.

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What if I have additional questions?

Please email Director of Membership and Conference Content Michelle Katz at

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