This issue of Nashim launches a 3-part Festschrift in honor of Professor Shulamit Reinharz, who retired in July 2017 as the Founding Director of the Hadassah-Brandeis Institute (HBI) and the Jacob Potofsky Professor of Sociology at Brandeis University. Prof. Reinharz—Shula, as she is widely known—received her B.A. from Barnard College and her Ph.D. from Brandeis University and directed the Women’s Studies Program at Brandeis University. She is the author or co-author of ten books and an active member of the Nashim International Advisory Board.
It has been my privilege to serve as Guest Editor, along with Nashim editors Prof. Renée Levine Melammed and Deborah Greniman, for this issue and the two to follow. When the Call for Papers went out in anticipation of Shula’s retirement from the HBI directorship and the Brandeis Sociology Department, scholars from around the world eagerly submitted proposals. The enthusiastic response to our original call for papers—resulting in this multi-issue Festschrift—speaks volumes about Shula’s transformative personal role in the lives of numerous scholars, as well as her institutional role in helping to build and develop feminist Jewish scholarship in diverse academic fields. Together, these three issues are fascinating on their own merits and also an impressive cornucopia of testimony to Shula’s enduring impact.
The creation of the HBI began more than two decades ago, when Professor Shulamit Reinharz was asked to head a National Commission on Jewish Women (1993), created by Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America, Inc. Working to fulfill the mandate of the National Commission—to gather information on the lives of contemporary American Jewish women—Brandeis’s Dr. Amy Sales gathered together all the existing research on American Jewish women that she could find, and Hadassah sent me on a research trip across the United States from Georgia to Oregon, conducting focus group discussions and interviews with Jewish women of diverse ages, diverse marital status and diverse religious orientations. Amy Sales’s collection and my new research went into a book called Voices for Change.
It was a wonderful book—but, as Shula pointed out immediately, it was “much too thin.” If this was all that Jewish studies could tell us about the changing lives of Jewish women, we needed more research.
The Hadassah-Brandeis Institute came into being in 1997 (enjoying several variant names in its early years) after Hadassah leaders invited Shula to become the Founding Director and creator of a brand new entity, which would combine Brandeis [End Page 9] University’s historical commitments to penetrating and wide-ranging research, to social justice and to serving the Jewish community, with Hadassah’s historical dedication to bettering the international Jewish world and to Jewish education.
Shula quickly determined that this new institute should be fully international in scope, seeking original research on the relationship between Jewishness and gender in a wide spectrum of academic fields and also in the arts. Shula asked me to join in shaping the new enterprise as Co-Director of HBI. Together, we set about creating the HBI Board, hiring staff and forging collaborations and alliances with faculty at Brandeis and at other institutions. The HBI Board has been extraordinary, from the first board chair, Diane Troderman, who came to every staff meeting for years, up to and including the current board chair, Dr. Phyllis Hammer.
The international scope of HBI was an unusual aspiration. One of our first encouraging international enterprises was the opportunity to join forces with our partners from the Schechter Institute in Jerusalem to create a Jewish feminist academic journal, Nashim: A Journal of Jewish Women’s Studies and Gender Issues, as a multi-disciplinary venue where junior and established scholars could publish cutting-edge research essays, with feminist creative work spotlighted alongside. In a similar vein, Shula approached publishers, including Brandeis University Press, and HBI started three book series to publish brilliant new works dealing with Jewishness and gender in any discipline and in any time and place. Shula worked with the HBI Board to establish competitive research awards that support Jewish feminist academic scholarship at colleges and universities around...