Jews as active citizens: past and present

February 16, 2021 by J-Wire Newsdesk
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The Australian Association for Jewish Studies, founded in 1987, is holding its 33rd Annual Conference in Canberra at the ACT Community Centre on Sunday 28 February and Monday 1 March.

Dr Kim Rubenstein

Professor Kim Rubenstein of the University of Canberra will be the convenor, working with Sarah Charak.

This is the second time that Canberra has hosted the conference and, in keeping with being our nation’s capital, it was decided to focus on the theme of Jews as citizens, past and present. With the pandemic, it was decided to hold this as a hybrid conference so that academics from around Australia and overseas will gather both in person at the ACT Jewish Community.

The conference aims to interrogate the notion of “active citizenship” as it relates to Jews and the Jewish community – how have Jews participated in, and even constructed, political and communal life, across history and across disparate societies and cultures? To what extent is Jewish identity relevant to these political contributions? Where does active citizenship occur – is it publicly performed in synagogues or parliaments, or are activities in the private sphere also fundamental to the growth and sustainability of society and citizens? And how do categories of race, class and gender affect the answers to these questions?

Dr Mareike Riedel

The rich program begins with an introduction to some conceptual underpinnings of the notion of “active citizenship” by Professor Kim Rubenstein, Australia’s leading expert on citizenship. An international key-note will be delivered by Dr Moshe Shoshan of Bar Ilan University, entitled “R. Eleazar b. R. Shimon: model citizen or murderer? Between aggada and halakha, ethnos and empire.” At the end of the first day’s proceedings, the National Library of Australia will be hosting a reception for the conference for those able to participate in person.

Dr Moshe Shoshan

Day two opens with an Australia key-note lecture by Dr Mareike Riedel from ANU titled “Between insider and outsider: law and the construction of Jewish difference”, exploring the way that law might marginalise Jews, endangering their status as equal citizens. The conference concludes with a conversation with three Jewish members of the Australian parliament, exploring the way that their Jewish identity contributes to their political careers and active citizenship.

Other topics covered include citizenship and statelessness in modern Israel; Hasidic women and leadership; Jewish schools and Australian law; stories of statelessness post-WWII; the role of museums in framing citizenship; and biographies of Jewish active citizens.

Academics, students, and all interested community members are encouraged to register and participate – either online or in person – in this fascinating conversation about Jews and citizenship. Registration starts at only $25 for the full two-day program and provides access to session recordings after the conference. The full, varied and stimulating program can be viewed at Registration is through the ACT Jewish Centre,

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