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  • Keywords In and For the New Jewish Studies

What follows are three short essays that originally saw the light of day as papers at the 2003 American Studies Association meeting in Hartford, Connecticut. The panel was pitched to the ASA primarily because that organization had not yet taken much notice of what we are learning to call the "New Jewish Studies." The panel was organized around three "keywords"—"smart" (Michael Staub), "soul" (Jeff Melnick), and "shul" (Marjorie Feld)—that we thought would generate some conversation and perhaps even a little controversy.

But the big mistake, as commentator Daniel Itzkovitz so gently pointed out at the time, was that we called the panel "Keywords in the New Jewish Studies," when none of these words really has had much play in this exciting new area of scholarly activity. So, following Daniel's hint, the three participants have revised and expanded those original papers and offer them up here—with more accuracy and a bit more hubris—under the new title "Keywords for the New Jewish Studies."

The "keywords" concept is borrowed, of course, from Raymond Williams's book of the same title. It allowed us to be more investigative, epigrammatic, perhaps even experimental than any of us is in our more traditional scholarship. We never thought any of the words alone, or the three together, reveal some central truth(s) about where Jewish Studies has been or where it ought to head. But if we are in a "new" time for Jewish Studies and if in the beginning was the word, we can at least hope that our etymological turn will inspire others to find some good words of their own.



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