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The Jewish Journal of Sociology: a brief history and prospectus

Geoffrey Alderman and Keith Kahn-Harris

<plain_text><page sequence="1">Jewish Historical Studies, volume 45, 2013 The Jewish Journal of Sociology: a brief history and prospectus GEOFFREY ALDERMAN AND KEITH KAHN-HARRIS The Jewish Journal of Sociology was the brainchild of a small but very distin guished group of young (and mainly British) Jewish intellectuals preoccupied with problems of Jewish survival and development in the post-Holocaust world. Chief among these were Dr Maurice Freedman (1920-1975), a London-born anthropologist who had studied at the London School of Economics (lse) and who returned there as a lecturer in 1949, his Cairo-born wife and fellow anthropologist Dr Judith Freedman (née Djamour, 1921 2009), whom he married in 1946, and the LSE's renowned professor of soci ology, Morris Ginsberg (1889-1970). Encouraged by lse's new director, the economist Sir Sydney Caine (1902 1991, whom the Freedmans had known at the University of Malaya, where Caine had been vice-chancellor), the Freedmans and Ginsberg reacted pos itively to an invitation from Dr Aaron Steinberg (1891-1975), the head of the cultural department of the World Jewish Congress (WJC), to establish an interdisciplinary academic journal devoted to the study of Jewish social rela tions. So was born in 1959 The Jewish Journal of Sociology, with which Judith Freedman's name and reputation were pivotally connected, first as assistant editor and later as managing editor and secretary. Judith Freedman was herself a scholar of international repute, researching and writing on Singaporean society, in which her husband was also inter ested. That th e Journal survived both the heartbreak of Maurice's early death and the withdrawal of wjc funding five years later is due entirely to Judith Freedman's efforts. However, for this single-minded - some would say obsti nate - devotion she paid a heavy price. Her own academic career - which had promised much when she collaborated with her former doctoral supervisor (Sir Raymond Firth) in a ground-breaking study of family and kinship in south London - came to a halt. Peer-reviewed from the outset, the Journal rapidly developed a reputation for excellence in the dissemination of high-quality research into problems of social formation, ethnic identity and demography among Jews both of the 159</page><page sequence="2">Research Notes Diaspora and of Israel. But the word "sociology" was given the widest possi ble interpretation, and over the decades the^A has disseminated original research of the highest quality on virtually every aspect of Jewish social affairs, including historical, philosophical and even economic and theological subjects - as long as they had a broad sociological dimension. It was a truly inter-disciplinary venture, a model of its kind, to the production of which Judith Freedman continued to devote all her energies to within a few weeks of her death. In 1970 Maurice Freedman was appointed as professor of social anthro pology at Oxford and elected to a fellowship at All Souls. His early and sudden death five years later, at the comparatively young age of 54, proved the turning point in Judith's life. The Journal became her memorial to his life and to the work and interests they had shared. She produced each issue almost single-handedly, insisting - completely undaunted by the advent of the digital age - on the submission by post of two typescript copies of manu scripts that were to be considered for publication. In the commissioning and editing processes she was assisted by a small Advisory Board, but the burden of production she bore alone. Her standards of editorship and production were impeccable and her yardsticks of academic rigour were beyond question. She also insisted on what would now be termed "plain English". She was known to rewrite articles completely where she felt that the quality of English was not sufficiently robust, a conviction she carried into everyday life, some times refusing to settle bills until they were rewritten so as to be - in her view - intelligible. In 1980, on financial grounds, the WJC withdrew its sponsorship of the Journal. Undaunted, Judith established a Research Trust in memory of her late husband and transferred to the Trust a capital sum that has proved large enough to bear the costs of production ever since. In due course the sociolo gist Mrs Marlena Schmool was appointed as a second trustee and, later, the historian and political scientist Professor Geoffrey Alderman became a direc tor of the associated limited company, and subsequently a trustee also. When Judith Freedman died in December 2009, the future of the Journal seemed in doubt. It had not entered the digital age. It had no website and intending contributors were unable to submit copy electronically. Mrs Schmool and Professor Alderman determined that it should continue if at all possible. A contract was entered into with the University of Buckingham Press, which now publishes the Journal annually and affords it an internet based presence. The Advisory Board has been reconstituted. Mrs Schmool and Professor Alderman edited the 2010 and 2011 editions themselves. For the 2012 edition Dr Stanley Waterman (professor of geography at the University of Haifa) agreed to act as editor; currently, the sociologist Dr Keith Kahn-Harris acts in a similar capacity. 160</page><page sequence="3">The. Jewish Journal of Sociology, a brief history and prospectus With the journal now on a more stable footing, it is worth reflecting on what a Jewish sociological journal can offer now and in the future. The loose ness of the definition of sociology that the journal has used is, in part at least, a pragmatic reflection of the limited scope of the field of Jewish sociology. In the United Kingdom, sociological studies of Jewish life in Britain are rela tively rare. The Institute for Jewish Policy Research, together with some of the major Jewish communal organizations, have produced a steady trickle of reports that draw on sociological research. These have been largely policy oriented and usually only draw on and contribute to the wider field of sociol ogy to a limited extent. Academic sociological studies on Jewish life in Britain have been few in number. Some kinds of research, such as ethnographic studies, are virtually absent. In the United States and Israel, there has been much more extensive sociological research on contemporary Jewry. Even there, though, such research has largely been inward-looking, failing to estab lish a field of Jewish sociology that could encompass a larger range of global Jewish communities and that could dialogue more effectively with wider cur rents in sociological thinking. In this context, th t Jewish Journal of Sociology offers one of only two peer reviewed platforms for Jewish sociological research (the other is the US based journal Contemporary Jewry). It thus bears a responsibility to help nurture the development of a self-conscious field of Jewish sociology. One modest step in this direction was the publication in the 2013 volume of a digest of Jewish social research reports prepared by the Berman Jewish Policy Archive in the United States. Fields of research require a certain "critical mass" to develop; the Jewish Journal of Sociology will continue in bringing together the best in Jewish social research in order to ensure that this mass is achieved. 161</page></plain_text>

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