Jewish History Journal Gets New Leadership

A new editorial team has taken over at American Jewish History, a journal with more than 100 years of history. This time, a trio of editors will lead the quarterly for the next five years. Kirsten Fermaglich (Michigan State University), Adam Mendelsohn (University of Cape Town) and Daniel Soyer (Fordham University) joined us for a Q&A about their new position and plans for the future.

How did your group end up in the position as editors?

The previous editor’s term was coming to an end, and a search committee for a new one had been set up by the Academic Council of the American Jewish Historical Society, which oversees the journal. We were approached individually by members of the committee and invited to apply for the position. The search committee came to the conclusion that we would work well as a team, and we agreed.

What does it mean to take over the leadership of a journal with such an important history?

Our journal is an official publication of the American Jewish Historical Society, an organization that claims to be the oldest ethnic historical society in the United States. From its first issue in 1893, the journal sought a non-parochial and scholarly approach to the history of Jews in the Americas.  Though not always attaining those goals, there is much to admire in the 100 volumes that followed the first. In these pages, generations of scholars have collected and disseminated data, written and rebutted, all the while adding nuance and color to our portrait of Jewish life in the Americas.  We are certainly proud to add to this ongoing legacy.

How important is it to introduce non-specialists to the journal?

American Jewish history is a very small niche.  There are probably only a few hundred specialists doing research in the field.  We don’t only want to speak to one another.  There are many overlaps between American Jewish history and other areas of history, as well as the fields of sociology, political science, literature, music, fine, art and theater, just to name a few.  We think it is essential to engage with these fields in a sustained and meaningful way to ensure that our own field remains exciting.  Then, too, there are non-academics, mostly Jewish Americans, who are interested in their own community and family histories.  We want to speak to them so that our work stays relevant and meaningful in a world that is changing rapidly.

How excited are you to expand the digital presence for the journal?

We are very excited to expand our digital presence.  Although print is still an important venue for communication, people are increasingly using digital media as their chief source of information.  We want American Jewish History to have a strong presence in that digital world, to meet readers and audiences where they are, and to present them with an engaging view of American Jewish history supplemented with audio and visual components that are impossible to produce in print. We have begun, for example, to post supplemental interviews and images on the website of the American Jewish Historical Society.

What advice do you have for people considering submitting to the journal?

Take a look at the journal before you submit a piece to see what kind of things we publish, and be aware of developments in the field of American Jewish history. We are looking for articles that incorporate original research and engage with the historiography. Of course, articles should be well written from a stylistic and technical point of view, and should adhere to our standards for citations.