After BDS — Jewish Studies Caucus


Members of small groups or marginalized groups used to caucus when it was considered that there were concerns specific to the group that were not going to get aired outside the group. In Talmud group, the only ones who showed up the other day were the Jewish Studies students. (Yes, at Syracuse, we have a Talmud group attended by colleagues and students outside Jewish Studies). We started talking about one student’s work in Jewish Studies and Native American Studies, about BDS, and Steven Salaita.  The student has ideas about Jews, American first nations, and Palestinians that go against the perceived wisdom. The conclusion of the larger conversation was came to that it was not a bad idea to set up a Jewish Studies Caucus. It would allow us to meet among ourselves and to focus upon and talk freely in private about topics and concerns (academic, professional, and political) particular to our work in Jewish Studies. These include conversations about Israel and Zionism. We’re going to organize the group as a reading group, and we’re starting with Shaul Magid’s book on post-ethnic Judaism and Jewishness. In my 17 or so years at Syracuse, I never felt the need for this kind of caucus-formation. Up to now, Jewish Studies at the graduate level here in the Department of Religion has been disorganized, to say the least. I’m pretty sure this type of self-organization would not have happened outside the context of pressures determined by BDS, and I think we can chalk it up as one of it’s unintended effects?

About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics.
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5 Responses to After BDS — Jewish Studies Caucus

  1. Mordy says:

    “against the perceived wisdom”

    Can I assume that his argument was that Jews were the original indigenous people that were colonized/displaced from the land by, in part, the people who currently assert native status to Palestine?

    • zjb says:

      No, not at all. His argument is that the geographical scale and historical conditions and claims are too disparate to make such a tendentious argument equating or tightly coordinating the history of Israel with U.S. settler colonialism.

      • Mordy says:

        Oh! That’s actually a fantastic claim. These kinds of comparisons (with the colonization of the Americas, with South African apartheid, with Algeria, etc) are almost exclusively political claims and not historical arguments.

      • zjb says:

        welcome to my world.

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