With this issue, we inaugurate our stewardship of Jewish Social Studies. We inherited our role as editors from Steven Zipperstein and Derek Penslar, who have been editing the journal, with the earlier collaboration of Aron Rodrigue, since its reissue in 1993. Created by Morris R. Cohen and Salo Baron in 1939—a most dramatic year in Jewish history, as well as an immensely dynamic moment for the social sciences—Jewish Social Studies had lost momentum by the 1980s, only to become one of the most exciting, widereaching, and respected journals in the field under Aron, Derek, and (for an unstinting 20 years) Steve’s guidance. On this occasion of transition, we thought it fitting to consider just what sort of path the journal has traveled over the past 20 years and where its future course might lie.
In a farewell essay published in issue 19.3, Steve, Aron, and Derek suggested that the task of any journal is to “provide a locus of imagined conversations of the sort that should lie at the core of an academic life.” It seems to us beyond doubt that Jewish Social Studies has not only fulfilled but exceeded this mandate, having served as a locus for an unusual number and diverse range of the most pressing and interesting conversations in Jewish Studies.
The journal’s renewal in the early 1990s coincided with the institutionalization of the “new cultural history” in American history departments and, relatedly, with a new theoretical climate in literary studies that reinvigorated and problematized historical approaches to culture. Arguably, Jewish Social Studies has functioned as a crucial site for Jewish Studies practitioners to tangle with—and advance—these intellectual [End Page 1] developments, as reflected in numerous articles that employed the methods of the “linguistic turn,” attended to systems of representation, or explored themes in memory, gender, and spatiality.
Whereas the journal’s interest in questions of culture is more or less a direct reflection of larger trends in the American and indeed the global academy, other signal features of the journal’s content bespeak developments specific to Jewish Studies—and, perhaps, to contemporary Jewish life more broadly. One of the most distinctive features of the new Jewish Social Studies has been its insistent openness from the very first to work on forms of Jewish culture and indeed entire Jewish societies that had been slighted in past scholarship—including the Sephardi and Mizrahi realms; the Yiddish cultural orbit; and American Jewish histories, each in all their dizzying complexity and full intellectual depth. Articles on these topics have helped turn readers’ attention away from the geographic contexts that had dominated Jewish Studies heretofore and, by necessity, challenged our sense of typologies and chronologies once considered standard. At the same time, Jewish Social Studies has established itself as one of the most important venues for a number of topics that are altogether canonical yet remain vital, demanding renewed invention and intervention. Its pages have carried some of the most innovative work on modern and contemporary Hebrew literature and culture, on modern Jewish political expression, and on Israeli polity, culture, and society. Finally, as a testament to the editors’ openness to innovative methodologies and foci, Jewish Social Studies has published the work of junior scholars, not only those who are well established in their careers.
We are keen to see Jewish Social Studies continue to cultivate new fields, pushing the boundaries of what counts as Jewish history, culture, and society; to make space for scholarship that combines original research in Jewish Studies with fully fledged participation in larger debates in the humanities and social sciences; and to place the study of cultural, political, social, textual, and intellectual phenomena together in one ongoing conversation. In the intellectually adventurous spirit of Steve, Aron, and Derek, we will continue to push at the boundaries that delineate Jewish Studies, inviting scholars into the journal from outside the field, including those who may step into it with some trepidation. Finally, though a majority of the articles published in Jewish Social Studies have focused on the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, we are intrigued by the possibility of expanding the journal’s...