A Dispatch from the World Congress of Jewish Studies // CAJS Blog


The World Congress of Jewish Studies, currently underway in Jerusalem at the Hebrew University, is a rare enough event that it deserves special mention. The first congress occurred in 1947, making it older than the State of Israel, and the present congress—the 17th—has brought together thousands of scholars for some 1800 presentations. It is the largest academic gathering in the field, and offers great evidence for its international and multi-lingual character. There were sessions in Yiddish, Spanish, English, and Hebrew, with participants from some 40 countries.

The fact that the congress happened at all is something of a miracle (albeit a miracle with its fair share of glitches.). As I came to learn in the last few months, the World Union of Jewish Studies which runs the congress has a tiny staff, and it is hard to imagine how just one full time person, another part time staff member, and a few behind the scenes volunteers pulled everything off. It tells you something about the congress that I had a check returned because one of the staff member’s children had written all over it with crayon. And yet they pulled it off, producing a conference that not only consisted of 700 or more sessions, but also musical and dance performances, piyyut workshops, film screenings, and much else.

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