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AJS Task Force Update: Upcoming Member Survey

May 10, 2018, 03:36 AM

Dear AJS Members,

This January, the AJS launched four new task forces to tackle pressing challenges facing the organization, the field of Jewish Studies, and academia as a whole. I write to let you know who is serving on these task forces, to update you on the exciting work that they are doing, and to urge you to help them in their work.

To be specific, you will soon receive a couple of surveys designed by the task forces. We ask that you take a few minutes out of your busy schedules to respond to these surveys. The task forces have been charged with developing data-driven policies, procedures, programs, and other initiatives that will improve the design and delivery of AJS services, help AJS members achieve their intellectual and professional goals, foster a culture of participation, and improve members’ experience of the organization as a whole. To meet their charge, the task forces need data.

The AJS is nothing more and nothing less than the totality of its membership. Please let the task forces know who you are as they work to ensure that the organization both represents and serves all of its members.


Christine Hayes 
AJS President

1) The AJS Sexual Misconduct Task Force

The Association for Jewish Studies has established a Task Force on Sexual Misconduct to promote awareness of and compliance with the policy statement on sexual misconduct issued by the AJS in November 2017 and to recommend procedures for the policy’s implementation. The nine members of the task force were selected through an open application process and reflect a range of skills, expertise, backgrounds, institutional locations, and levels of seniority. The task force is charged with identifying and recommending to the AJS board fair, transparent, accessible, and effective procedures for handling complaints concerning sexual misconduct at AJS or AJS-sponsored events and activities. 

The responsibilities of the task force, as defined by the AJS President, Executive Director, and members of the Task Force, are as follows:

1) Develop a survey for AJS members, regarding their experiences and concerns;
2) Publicize support resources for those affected by sexual abuse, harassment, intimidation, or discrimination;
3) Research the current models, policies, and procedures of other academic professional organizations concerning sexual misconduct issues;
4) Recommend clear, transparent, and easily understood procedures for reporting complaints of sexual misconduct, investigating complaints, and determining the consequences for violators;
5) Organize professional development workshops and panel discussions regarding sexual misconduct issues, to be held at AJS Annual Meetings.

Task Force Members:
Laura Levitt, Chair, (Temple University)
Flora Cassen (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
Lisa Fishbayn Joffe (Hadassah-Brandeis Institute)
Ari Y. Kelman (Stanford University)
Keren McGinity (Hebrew College)
Rafael Medoff (David Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies)
Larisa Reznik (Northwestern University)
Josh Shanes (College of Charleston)
Helene Sinnreich (University of Tennessee-Knoxville)

2) Professional Development Task Force

The Professional Development Task Force is charged with drafting proposals to the AJS Board on how the organization might provide support for its members in their careers. We have begun this task by discussing expansively the full range of careers that AJS members pursue and considering all stages of professional development, from graduate school through retirement. The task force will look both at different areas of concern for professional development and at various means of addressing them, in order to make strategic recommendations to the Board regarding what key areas of professional development that the AJS should address and how to do so.  We will begin our work by turning to AJS members to find out both what professional skills they wish to acquire or develop and what skills they have to offer to others. We also seek to learn from members what they consider to be best practices for professional development, whether offered by the AJS or other institutions.  

Task Force Members
Jeffrey Shandler, Chair (Rutgers University)
Dean Bell (Spertus Institute)
Alanna Cooper (Case Western University)
Matthew Goldstone (Jewish Theological Seminary)
Shiri Goren (Yale University)
Shira Kohn (The Dalton School)
Laura Leibman (Reed College)
Jason Lustig (UCLA)
Sean Martin (Western Reserve Historical Society)

3) Diversity and Inclusion Task Force

Interpreting the charge to our group as a proactive call to address structural and cultural barriers to equal access and full representation within the AJS, the Diversity and Inclusion Task Force has been considering how the AJS, its conference, publications, and outreach can best serve as an inclusive home for the variety of constituents engaged in Jewish Studies. Initial efforts are focused on the central issues identified by the task force. A prime concern has been how the climate and culture of the Conference may exclude people across a range of identifiers including “Jewishness,” language, gender, class, ability, sexual orientation, geography, citizenship, race, and academic status. We are working on: devising explicit expectations of respect and inclusivity for sessions and panelists; comparing demographic data requested by the AJS for registration and conference proposals with evidence-based best practices; rethinking AJS messaging at the conference and via its website in order to articulate and reinforce the responsibility of all members to create an open, welcoming environment; and proposing a dedicated time in the AJS program to take up questions raised by this and the other task forces.

Task Force Members:
Karla Goldman, Chair, (University of Michigan)
Chaya Halberstam, (King’s University College)
Sarah Imhoff, (Indiana University)
Samira Mehta, (Albright College)
R. Neis, (University of Michigan)
Michael Rosenberg, (Hebrew College) 
David Shneer, (University of Colorado)
Claire Sufrin, (Northwestern University)
Sarah Zarrow, (Western Washington University)

4) Membership Engagement and Outreach

The Task Force has identified its goals as recommending ways to improve transparency and communication within the AJS, recommending policies regarding the AJS’s role in public advocacy, and investigating and recommending means of improving conditions of employment. We will also work with other task forces to create opportunities for professional development and to draw upon a more diverse body of members for leadership positions.

Task Force Members:
Jeff Veidlinger, Chair (University of Michigan)
Lila Corwin Berman (Temple University)
Michelle Katz (AJS)
Katherine Rosenblatt (Emory University)
Benjamin Schreier (Penn State University)
Mira Sucharov (Carleton University)
Steven Weitzman (University of Pennsylvania)