So, I am now safely returned from the Association of Jewish Studies meeting–three days of dizzying geektabulous fun, too much to report but I’ll do my best.
Got there Sunday morning, and the shmoozing was already in high gear. First session I hit was on images and mystical traditions–talking about the mapping of God’s big ol’ mystical body in Hechalot literature, the use of diagrams in Kabbalah, and, most ass-kickingly good, Aramaic incantation bowls used to expel demons. Duuude. Then there was lunch and writer talk and running into lots of folks, some running around getting checked into the room I was sharing with the always-asskicking Tobin . Then I sat in on a few minutes of something on the theology of the patriarchs of the Torah before I realized I was crashing from lack of sleep and an already high level of shmoozification, so I went in for the nap before the big ol’ cocktail party with the kosher sushi and flowing wine.
The whole thing really was a trip. It was kind of like a high-concept “This is your life” parade. I saw professors with whom I studied in college, people I knew in college, people with whom I’ve worked in a writerly way, people I met through doing Yentl’s Revenge, cool activist friends from my days in the Bay Area, and other folks from back when I was cooler and not just a crazed rab student, brainy music friends, some of my teachers, people who are married to friends, people I’ve met at Shabbos tables, people with whom I’ve worked on projects, loads of people from my L.A. universe, and the whole Jewish feminist kit and caboodle. Plus, you know, all the new people. It was great fun, really, and of course the real conference tended to happen more at the social swirly parts than during the sessions. That always happens. Some interesting potential projects were cooked up and a lot of fun was had.
Of course, it was a Jewish academic conference, so there was more than enough pontificating and weenie waving to go around–plenty of people who should receive one of my t-shirts–that is to say, the one that says, “I [heart] the Sound of My Own Voice.” (I figured out pretty early on in rab school that most people should probably get one upon ordination, but evidently academics are–shocker–also sometimes worthy.) But a lot of the whole thing was chunky goodness.
Monday started earrrrly with the Women’s Caucus breakfast, and then my panel–on the “Future of Jewish Feminist Scholarship” was on. It was chaired by Rebecca Alpert, and featured Lori Lefkowitz, Judith Plaskow, Susan Weidman Schneider, Chava Weissler and little ol’ me. Needless to say, it was a pretty big honor to be up there in such esteemed company, I did my best to make the Third Wave proud. Overall it went well; people said very smart things, tho the Q and A wasn’t as exciting as I would have hoped it to be–some of the questions seemed to come from people who haven’t read any feminism since like 1986, which was too bad. But props to my fellow panelists for rocking hard like they did, and to Laura Levitt to making it happen. There were too many thoughts and ideas to be able to report fully, but on one foot, people seemed somewhat split between feeling very cynical given how much discrimination and how many descrepencies still exist, and brainstorming new ideas (theoretical/academic and practical) on how to make things better. I think both things are true: we’ve come a long way, the situation is still not really so hot for women in academia, and there are things we can still do. I’ll post my talk here in a sec.
The rest of Monday was, variously, going to panels (one highlight was Shaye Cohen on circumcision and blood, though all of the rabbinics panels to which I made it were pretty good; the media panel (eg), on the other hand, was so full of buzzwords it made me dizzy) wandering around the book fair and of course more hanging out with folk, plus another nap to get me ready for much socializing and many cocktails in many locations Monday night. Tuesday was something like rolling out of bed late, bolstering my sorry self with muuuuuch coffee, and finally abandoning the attempt to hear brainy things in favor of more social.
All in all, a grand time was had by me, though I think I did hit my limit of the Jewish and the social and the academic by the time 2 1/2 days were up. And tomorrow, I head back to Jerusalem, where there are, yes, Jews and socializing and academics–just not all stranded in a hotel together.