Dr. Gary Zola takes a leadership role at the Eighteenth World Congress of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem

Courtesy of the AJA.  

Dr. Gary Zola 

Submited by the Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives 


The 18th World Congress of Jewish Studies (WCJS), the largest Jewish Studies conference in the world, will take place at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem on their Mount Scopus campus from August 8 to August 12, 2022. Alongside top Jewish studies scholars from all over the globe, Dr. Gary P. Zola, Executive Director of The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives & The Edward M. Ackerman Family Distinguished Professor of the American Jewish Experience and Reform Jewish History at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, will have a leadership role in two conference sessions. 

“For the past twenty five years, I have tried to raise the profile of the study of American Jewish history and the American Jewish experience at this important branch of the Jewish

scholarship,” Dr. Zola said. “I am so pleased that Dr. Mark Raider and I have been able to organize a session on American Jewry, and I am gratified the Congress has invited me to chair another session that is being offered.” 

Dr. Mira Yungman chaired a special WCJS session and tribute to Professor Jonathan D. Sarna. The session occurred midday on August 10 and is sponsored by The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives and the Department of History and Charles Phelps Taft Research Center at the University of Cincinnati. 

“Jonathan Sarna is one of the most important scholars of the American Jewish experience,” Dr. Zola said. “Since Jacob Rader Marcus, no one has done more to advance our field of research. He has personally trained nearly forty Ph.D. students who have expanded our field of study. I was, I believe, Dr. Sarna’s first Ph.D. student, and it gives me special pleasure to honor his singularly important contributions to Jewish scholarship.” 

"We recognized that Prof. Sarna's innovative spadework, penetrating insights, and pathfinding conceptual models are so omnipresent as to be fundamental to the way virtually all high school students, college students, lay readers, and researchers are introduced to the study of American Jews and American Judaism," Dr. Raider said. "We decided that a documentary history, including hitherto unpublished and rarely seen materials tracing the American Jewish experience from the Atlantic World to the present, would be an especially fitting tribute to Dr. Sarna.” 

During this WCJS session, four speakers will share their work: Dr. Raider of The University of Cincinnati will discuss Golda Meir, Dr. Rachel Gordan from the University of Florida will present on Life Magazine’s role introducing Americans to Judaism, and Ben-Gurion University’s Dr. Ofer Shiff will speak on Abba Hillel Silver. 

In the closing discussion, Dr. Zola will present his research on the alliance between Alexander Schindler and Black-Jewish Relations from 1987 to 1992. Referring to two of Schindler’s speeches, Dr. Zola will provide insight into why relations evolved the way they did and how Schindler advocated for reconciliation. He will discuss why the strong collaborations between black and Jewish communities in the 1960’s deteriorated into tense relationships in the latter part of the twentieth century and stressing the fact that Schindler’s words are still relevant today. 

On Thursday afternoon, August 11, Dr. Zola will chair another session titled, North American Jewry: History, Historiography and Jewish Identity. Scholars will discuss Jewish identity, from American Jewish Historians to the Rabbi of Hollywood stars and Israeli baseball. 


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