Academic journal article Shofar

The Coming of Age of a Jewish Studies Scholarly Journal: A Quarter Century of Shofar1

Academic journal article Shofar

The Coming of Age of a Jewish Studies Scholarly Journal: A Quarter Century of Shofar1

Article excerpt

This article describes the founding and growth of Shofar and the roles of the various players in its history.

After a quarter century of its publication, a retrospective account of the founding and growth of Shofar is altogether fitting. This is a personal account, depending to a considerable extent on memory, flawed and partial as it may be.2 I will describe the challenges, hurdles, frustrations and satisfactions that have gone into the creation of what is now, perhaps, a premier journal of Jewish Studies. I will frame the narrative in the context of the institutions in which this journal has taken its form. Shofar has been made possible through the overlapping of a university (Purdue), a college (Liberal Arts), a program (Jewish Studies), a network of scholarly organizations (the Midwest Jewish Studies Association and the Western Jewish Studies Association), and a series of university presses, first the University of Nebraska Press and then the Purdue University Press. I will conclude with some comments on the changing environment in which scholarly editors now operate.

Beginnings: 1981-1982

Founding acts are important, since they shape the contours and directions of an enterprise.3 Small beginnings may have large consequences. In 1981 as the Jewish Studies Program at Purdue was initiated, my involvement began in a very roundabout and peripheral way, not as a founder but as an interested supporter.4

My professional identification was in the area of Science, Technology and Public Policy, a program that I had headed in the Department of Political Science. That program was abolished in 1978 during my sabbatical in Israel by the Head of the Political Science Department at the rime. For several years as head of the STPP program I had edited an interdisciplinary newsletter which included mostly useful information, some short book-notes, and available materials. The STPP Newsletter had a wide national circulation. When I returned I could no longer continue this newsletter.

Approximately a year after the Jewish Studies Program at Purdue (JSP) became part of the School of Humanities, Social Science and Education, Robert Melson suggested that I do a newsletter for the program. I was looking for a new challenge and proposed a "newsletter" which would include short book-reviews, book-notes, and mini-articles. I then set about putting together a prototype. I was willing to assemble the issues but needed help to obtain paper to print it and the postage to distribute it outside the university-in short, funding!

Robert Melson and I marched off to the Dean's office and requested his support. As good Deans will, he responded in a positive but guarded way: he would give us $200.00 to put out the first two issues, but after that we were on our own. I asked whether he would allow us to raise our own money for the program-to which he responded positively. The key to the future of the Jewish Studies Program and Shofar lay in that "yes." We were now confronted by the need to raise money. I was in a situation where I felt I had to take the lead, since this new opportunity had come about through a funding request for Shofar.

Though I had no experience in fund-raising and little in writing proposals, it was clear to me that there was no point in asking for financial support unless the program expanded its scope beyond the existing course offerings and the occasional public lecture. If there was to be a viable and perhaps vibrant newsletter there had to be news to report. Purdue was viewed as a predominantly engineering institution. Building our program would require projects that were not simply duplications of what was done at, for example, our sister institution at Bloomington.

So I set in motion, in conjunction with a Jewish Studies Committee that had been formed, the following: (1) a bi-weekly "Noon Series" of talks, presentations, and discussions based on work or ideas of faculty and community members that had some bearing on Jewish Studies or the Jewish experience. …

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