Australian Association for Jewish Studies Conference 2021 has ended
Join the Australian Association for Jewish Studies and the ACT Jewish Community for a conference exploring questions of Jewish status, membership, belonging, and political participation across disparate societies and historical contexts.

Click here to register and receive access to the full program. The conference will use a hybrid model – some papers will be delivered online, and some in person, and both online and in person participation is possible for all sessions. If you don’t receive the Zoom password after registering, contact us at AAJS.conf@gmail.com.

Thank you to conveners Professor Kim Rubenstein and Sarah Charak for all their work putting together the Conference.

THE 2021 CONFERENCE IS NOW OVER. To watch video recordings of the papers and panels, click here.
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Sunday, February 28 • 1:30pm - 2:45pm
Jewish women as active citizens

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Birthing a nation: Jewish women as member-makers | Viva Hammer [in person]
Traditional Jewish law provides that it is the mother’s Jewishness that makes children Jewish. Over time, Jewish mothers have been a chief source of new Jewish membership. In the last three centuries, Jews were pioneers in effective fertility control. Jews limited their family sizes long before their European Christian neighbors. Jewish couples were precociously bringing fertility within their conscious calculation and limiting potential Jewish membership.Jewish women were known for their determination to limit births and consequently, the membership of the Jewish community. Modern Jewish women became ardent users of the most effective birth control methods. But in the last sixty years, certain groups of Orthodox women had a different vision. They saw themselves as having the power and responsibility to have large families, responding to conditions that had reduced, and continue to reduce, the size of the Jewish community, particularly the Holocaust and assimilation. This presentation is based on interviews of mothers and daughters of large families, in Australia, the UK, US, Canada and Israel. In these interviews, I discover that Orthodox women were choosing to have children not as a personal matter, but as a contribution to the Jewish communal enterprise and as a response to Jewish communal loss. I will present the idea of mothers as deliberate creators of Jewish membership. Jewish mothers of large families consider their role as “makers” of Jews to be meaningful, powerful and deliberately counter-cultural.

Hasidic women’s leadership and the stained-glass ceiling | Dovi Seldowitz [in person]
Hasidic women in Israel and in the United States are typically represented in popular culture as oppressed, voiceless victims of a patriarchal society, impervious to the social changes of the 20th Century. Ethnographic research as well as insider accounts often confirm this assessment, however, unlike their fictional counterparts in films and television dramas (such as Netflix’s 2020 miniseries Unorthodox), some Hasidic women have begun to assume significant religious and community leadership roles. This paradoxical phenomenon of Hasidic women’s leadership has received limited attention by Jewish studies scholars. Talmudic and Halakhic considerations of women’s leadership in Hasidic circles may be understood as the result of recent changes in Hasidic life in the areas of education, community organising and the legitimation of through minor trends in Hasidic mysticism. In the Hasidic situation, the Halakhic debates over the appointment of women to community leadership (serara) may be considered dominant, however, women’s leadership may present in ways that do not challenge this Halakhic value. In this paper, a classification or typology of Hasidic women’s leadership is presented. This typology may include women leaders in both community and outreach spaces. While the paradoxical and ambivalent state of Hasidic women in leadership indicates that ultra-Orthodoxy’s ‘stained-glass ceiling’ remains in place, some areas of Jewish communal life appear to accommodate Hasidic women to exercise agency in shaping their lives and the lives of other Hasidic men and women in their community.

Emma Goldman: a radical role model? | Deborah Mayersen [in person]
Emma Goldman is best known as one of America’s foremost anarchists. Once described by a judge as a “dangerous woman”, she was arrested so often that she began to carry a book with her at all times, for fear of sitting in jail with nothing to read. Certainly, there is much to condemn in Goldman’s willingness to embrace violence, most notable in her youth. Yet while the American press loved to vilify her, she also had large number of supporters. She regularly gave lectures to packed halls, and was a successful author and publisher. In Emma Goldman, we can recognise both a flawed character and a passionate campaigner for freedom. Goldman was a pioneer in her strong advocacy for women’s rights, for access to birth control, and for the rights of gay men and lesbians. Today she is heralded as a powerful, if deeply controversial, feminist role-model. This paper goes further, to ask if Emma Goldman can also be recognised as a Jewish feminist role-model. In many respects, Goldman’s committed atheism renders this improbable. Yet this paper will argue that many of the core values that she embraced so passionately are fundamentally Jewish values. Arguably, she offers a powerful role-model of a strong Jewish woman, unwilling to be oppressed by society.

avatar for Keren Hammerschlag

Keren Hammerschlag

Keren Hammerschlag is a lecturer in art history and curatorship in the Centre for Art History and Art Theory in the School of Art and Design at the Australian National University. She is the author of Frederic Leighton: Death, Mortality, Resurrection (2015), and several articles... Read More →

avatar for Viva Hammer

Viva Hammer

Brandeis University
Viva Hammer is a Research Associate and on the Academic Advisory Council at the Hadassah-Brandeis Institute of Brandeis University. She was formerly Legislation Counsel at the Joint Committee on Taxation at the US Congress and Associate Tax Legislation Counsel at the U.S. Treasury... Read More →
avatar for Dovi Seldowitz

Dovi Seldowitz

Dovi Seldowitz is a PhD candidate (Sociology) at UNSW Sydney. He received his BA (Hons) in Sociology and Anthropology from UNSW. Previously Dovi received his rabbinical ordination from the Central Lubavitch Yeshiva in Brooklyn in 2010. Dovi is also the Programs & Technology Officer... Read More →
avatar for Deborah Mayersen

Deborah Mayersen

Deborah Mayersen is a Lecturer in International and Political Studies at the University of New South Wales Canberra at the Australian Defence Force Academy. Deborah's research expertise is in the field of genocide studies, including the Armenian genocide, the Rwandan genocide and... Read More →

Sunday February 28, 2021 1:30pm - 2:45pm AEDT

Attendees (3)