Hated, hated, hated being in Washington D.C. this year for the Association for Jewish Studies conference, what with the monster just down the street in the White House and the zombie tourists at the Mall. After three days off grid, I slogged my way on Tuesday through afternoon traffic down New York Avenue and rt. 50, trying to get home, listening on the radio to the sickening spectacle of Paul Ryan crowing and the Senate “debate” about the GOP plan to kill the country with tax cuts for corporations and the super wealthy. The closeness of being so near to all that cast a pall over the entire conference, at least for me. The Gettysburg Address and Second Inaugural Address with their commitments to equality and democracy engraved into the walls of the side wings of the Lincoln Memorial were incredibly moving but did nothing to console. Thanks to global warming, the weather was unseasonably mild. Mourning or melancholy?
Here, though, are 9 mostly positive highlights from the conference:  Meeting and conversations with young colleagues and old friends about enemies, aesthetics and ethics, Leibniz, and philosophy of biology,  the realization that there are young or youngish colleagues coming to the AJS for the first or second time who actually find the conference congenial and welcoming,  soliciting book projects for the series in New Jewish Philosophy and Thought at Indiana University Press,  grave concern about the state of modern Jewish thought,  coming to some philosophical terms about the “invention of Jewish ethics,”  the start of a working group on Jewish Studies and “media” i.e. objects, networks, and affect,  not talking about Israel hardly at all,  The Sweater Party,  the realization that after some 50 years, the hottest thing at the AJS is….Talmud, the study of which is now dominated by women.
Time to ditch the radio for podcasts. I recommend New Books in Jewish Studies and Judaism Unbound.
glad there are some flickers of light out there.
No institution defines Israel, inside and out, like the formidable Israeli defence force (IDF). Robert Nicholson explores how military service helps shape Israeli society, and the role the army has to play in Israel’s future. Unlike most modern armies, which tend to be professional armies composed of career soldiers and volunteers, the IDF is comprised mostly of conscripts doing compulsory military service. We hear how the IDF looks to steward their young conscripts – and what happens when this attempt at a national project meets areas of national division, inequality and controversy