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The Past and Future of Jewish Archives

Mon, December 17, 5:00 to 6:30pm, Seaport Hotel & World Trade Center, Cityview 1 Ballroom

Session Submission Type: Panel Session


As we reach fifty years of the Association for Jewish Studies and reflect on the future of the field, it is worthwhile to examine the institutions and resources upon which Jewish Studies research rests. This panel brings together scholars who are working to study the history of Jewish archives and create new ones, to reflect on the past of Jewish archives and what might be in store as we move forward. Together, they consider how we have arrived at the current constellation of archival resources and what pressures and challenges archives, archivists, and scholars face. Further, the panelists will present their experiences dealing with realities such as climate change and the dangers it poses to files in sites like Houston, Charleston, and even New York City, alongside digitization and new research techniques and the wide-ranging effects of these issues on where we store records, what they represent, and how we study them.

The papers presented in the session bring together various perspectives and projects that situate Jewish archives within their historical context and raise questions about the future of Jewish research. Joshua Furman will present his experience establishing the Houston Jewish History Archive in 2017, in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, and consider what it means to create a community-based archive that aims to preserve historical materials after natural disaster. Devin Naar explores the history of Ladino archives, their place (and absence) in major archival repositories, and how several initiatives are seeking to construct a documentary edifice to allow the study of Sephardic Jewry. Jason Lustig will reflect on how Jewish historians have used archival resources, raising questions about the nature of Jewish research and about the future role of centralized archives. And Dale Rosengarten will discuss the lessons she has learned over the past twenty-three years collecting materials related to southern Jewish history, and in the process empowering local communities to preserve and relate their own stories.

Altogether, these papers will facilitate a conversation about how we, as scholars of Jewish studies, have arrived at the archival landscape of today, the challenges we face, and what lies ahead in the next fifty years.

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