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January 26, 2012 - Image 31

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2012-01-26

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a Hyman and the Virtues of Collaboration

by Deborah Dash Moore, Director, The Frankel Center,
and Frederick G.L. Huetwell Professor of History
University of Michigan

We often speak in academia of collaboration,
and we practice it as well. At the Frankel Center,
faculty members team-teach; they conduct
research together, co-author articles, and co-
edit volumes. The Frankel Institute promotes
intellectual collaboration through its weekly
workshops. Indeed, this year's Institute has
produced its first co-authored book project. Ken
Wald (University of Florida) and Herb Weisberg
(Ohio State University) are collaborating • to
examine the distinctive voting behavior of
American Jews. But despite our extensive
experience sharing ideas and working together to
produce new knowledge, we rarely reflect upon
the virtues—and challenges—of collaboration.

I have enjoyed the pleasures (and occasional
frustrations) of collaboration with diverse
scholars, but I first learned its virtues from
Paula Hyman, who serves on the Academic
Advisory Board of the Frankel Institute. We
started out as friends in graduate school doing
the things grad students do so well together:
preparing for comprehensive exams, discussing
our dissertations. But as feminist graduate
students, we also shared political passions and a
to find a way
to combine
family with
career. Both
of us chose
to have
children while
we were still
students. The
demands of
raising young
led us to
integrate our
with more
personal and
Paula Hyman
political ones.

After graduation, we began to navigate a collegial
relationship. Paula Hyman stayed at Columbia
University's History Department and I went to
the Religion Department at Vassar College but
maintained affiliation with the YIVO Institute
for Jewish Research in New York City. That
provided the basis for our first collaboration.

z •

\KM- iN

Paula Hyman called
me up one day in
1979 and invited
me to lunch at the
Columbia Faculty
Club, a special treat, so that we
could plan a conference to be
sponsored jointly by YIVO and
Columbia on "Jews, Cities, and
Modernist Culture." We aimed to
bring writers and artists together
with scholars and journalists, to
connect young academics like
Leon Botstein with established
figures like Grace Paley, and to
encourage them to speak across
disciplinary boundaries as well
as those separating practitioners
from academics. We hoped for
a large, diverse audience. When
the conference opened in April
1980, we were not disappointed.
Hundreds attended. Planning the
conference we parceled out the
tasks; we wrote grant applications,
invited participants, managed
logistics, and argued over themes
and people. It was challenging for
two untenured faculty members to
pull off, but ultimately rewarding;
and we learned a lot about
Jewish and academic politics.




women's voices, but we
haven't always agreed
about Jewish politics.
Yet one of the virtues
of collaboration means
that we keep on talking,
arguing our points of
view while still loving
and respecting each
other and finding ways
to accommodate our
different perspectives.

For both of us, a high
point of collaboration
occurred in 1994, after
the demise of the
YIT/O Annual, when
Paula invited me to co-
edit Jewish Women in
America: An Historical
[Paula Hyman passed away
Engclopedia. Although
on Dec. 15, 2011, at the age
we both now were
of 65. This month, it was an-
established scholars,
nounced that Gender & Jewish
Paula Hyman at Yale
History—edited by Deborah
University as Lucy
Dash Moore and Marion Kaplan
in Paula Hyman's honor—was
of Modern Jewish
selected for the National Jewish
History, we tackled
Book Award.]
this massive project
with some of the
same naiveté that
characterized our first conference collaboration.
Our subsequent collaborations extended across Choosing whom to invite to the editorial board,
decades; one continues to this day. In 1982 and then picking the women to be included in
Paula Hyman and I agreed to co-edit a series the encyclopedia, themes to be addressed, and
on the Modern Jewish Experience for Indiana finding hundreds of scholars, young and old, to
University Press. We are a good team; Paula write the entries, turned out to be an enormous
focuses on Europe and I cover the United States. and highly politicized undertaking. Paula had
Together with Janet Rabinowitch at the press, asked me to join her in editing the encyclopedia
we have published a steady stream of books, not just because of the work involved or because
including a number of prizewinners that helped she wanted an ally but because, she said, we'd
to launch many of our colleagues' careers. get to see each other regularly. That clinched it.

In 1988 I invited Paula to serve on the editorial
board of a reconstituted YIVO Annual for Jewish
Research. She accepted. Then at one of our early
board meetings she got into a knock-down,
drag-out fight with another board member over
the virtues of a feminist memoir that had been
initially approved for publication. In the end,
Paula convinced a majority of the board that
the voices of unheralded observers, including
women, deserved to be heard, published alongside
scholarship. Principle established, subsequent
editorial board meetings spawned less conflict.

Paula and I agreed about the memoir and

When it came time finally to write the
preface, all those years of collaboration paid
off. The sentences just flowed. First hers,
then mine, then her intervention, then my
rewrite. It was exhilarating. Collaboration
born of years of intellectual exchange,
political discussion, and personal friendship,
found its fulfillment in a worthy project.

The virtues of collaboration are manifold:
intellectual rigor, strengthening of one's own
values, acquiring fresh perspectives, support
for risk-taking and critical consciousness,
and most importantly, enduring friendship.

"Like" University of Michigan's Frankel Center for Judaic Studies on Facebook or contact us to be added to our
mailing list: 734.763.9047 or judaicstudies@umich.edu . Visit our website at vvww.lsa.umich.edu/judaic.

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