Newsletter


Hello, Today, while doing some research, I decided to indulge myself in some personal privilege - namely sending out a personal letter without editorial board approval. Actually, this letter is not so much personal, as it is personal reflection.

This month marks the SEVENTH anniversary of the Jewish Studies newsletter, and the congratulations go to all of you for making our group a continued success.

Here is our history in a nutshell (you'll have to wait for my thesis for the full story <grin>):

About 13 years ago or so, usenet was growing steadily. In fact so steadily, that some folks thought the one token Jewish forum (net.religion.jewish, later, soc.cultural.jewish) had grown too unruly. With the growth of the net, e-mailing lists became a viable alternative, so much so that splinter groups emerged, allowing for more focused and moderated discussion. Among the first successful "discussion" models was MAIL.JEWISH, and later, MAIL.YIDDISH. While exceptional lists in their own right, these were not "academic" lists. Their early constituencies tended towards computer professionals rather than academics, and the few academics were, more often than not, hard-scientists.

This was to change within a couple of years, however. Following the lead of the HUMANIST list, other social scientists began exploiting the new communication technologies. One that stands out, for example, was/is the IOUDAIOS list.

Influenced by mail.jewish and ioudaios, Yechiel Greenbaum and Avrum Goodblat, with the assistance of Emmanuel Tov, set out to tackle the job of producing a Judaic Studies newsletter for e-mail distribution. Their first issue (which appears below) came out in February 1989. They called it He'Asif.

These fabulous efforts, we need to remember, were manually done. The widespread use of ListServ automation did not affect our discipline until 1991-92 (the time period of Mendele's and Holocaus's emergence, for example).

After ListServ, Greenbaum and Goodblat sent their newsletter out on a list called Judaica from Tel Aviv U. Around the same time, Tzvee Zahavy, a world away in Minnesota, started his own list called Judaica, unmoderated and built on the model of ioudaios. Not long after, Greenbaum and Goodblat and Zahavy joined forces, using both the Minnesota list and Tel Aviv list for distribution of the newsletter.

Unfortunately, the period of 1992-1993 seems to have been one of, shall I say, "downsizing". Greenbaum ran out of time to do the formal newsletter, Goodblat had begun to move on to a larger project (he is the director of the Shamash (Israel.NYSERNet) Project), and Tzvee's Judaica list became a little quieter.

It is around this time that I began my leg of this e-mail journey. On the advice <glare/grin> of our Review Editor, Henry Abramson, I became a lurker on mail.jewish, Mendele, Judaica and Ioudaios. In early 1993 I approached Goodblat about the newsletter. Well, I guess I fell right into Avrum's trap, and the next thing you know, I was moderating a list called jewstudies@israel.nysernet and using it to produce the newsletter. My first contribution to editing the newsletter came out in July 1993.

In retrospect, I think it was a mistake to create a new list name, but that was rectified somewhat in August of that year when Zahavy merged the Judaica effort with the JewStudies effort, and together we joined the H-Net team (leaving us two lists to play with, JewStudies and H-Judaic).

For two years, we debated whether or not the list should be a discussion group or a newsletter, whether it be moderated or not. Our H-Net reps pushed for the discussion model, while our Shamash reps pushed for the newsletter. During that whole period, we only published the newsletter, with a small section for personal notes. The same newsletter was sent on both lists, with the membership being split 2/3 on jewstudies and 1/3 on h-judaic. That changed late last year.

None of the work between 1993 and 1995 could have been done without the tremendous efforts of the early board members, Tzvee (as chair), Henry, Avrum, Josh Backon, Mark Flumerfelt, Leslie Train, Jim Mott (moderator of Holocaus), Richard Jensen of H-Net, and our now-retired member Chana Lajcher. God bless them all.

Late last year, we finally took the plunge, and began our discussion group, using the H-Judaic list for that purpose, while still using the jewstudies@shamash list for the newsletter. Some folks don't realize we do both, and I have to admit that there is a discrepancy of about 20 names between one version of the membership list and the other, but alas, this is not a static medium. That is why I like the umbrella name "Jewish Studies On-Line" - covers both, don't you think?

Anyway, none of the more recent changes, including our ventures onto the web, could have happened without the support of our other editorial board members who have joined us over time: Lewis Barth, Judith Baskin, Herb Basser, Bernard Cooperman, Nathan Ehrlich, Penny Schine Gold, Joseph Haberer, Guy Haskell, Howard Joseph, Yitzchak Kerem, Richard Menkis, Jonathan Sarna, Belarie Zatzman, and Reena Zeidman. I have met 13 of them in person, and look forward eagerly to meeting the rest. Thank you all for the wonderful journey thus far, and God bless you too.

And thank you to all of YOU who make our little virtual community so strong and viable. In re-reading this letter, I found it might sound somewhat self-promotional. It is not meant that way at all. I am merely one member of OUR community who has been granted the good fortune to have a chance to help it grow a little. I wanted only to share with you its history, and extend my gratitude to you all, and mazal, especially to Avrum Goodblat who has been there the whole way through.

I look forward to meeting each and every one of you too. Best wishes for another seven years (at least) of Jewish Studies networking. And again, thank you.

Avi Hyman, managing editor or moderator (your choice)

---------- Forwarded message ----------

1 Feb 89 JUDAIC STUDIES 26 Shevat 49 BS"D

This is the inaugural edition of a weekly newsletter, which we hope will expand into a into a bulletin board. The main idea is communication. Who's doing what and how can they be contacted? Does anyone have information rel- evant to my work and have I knowledge that can guide anyone else? Comput- ers allow quick, efficient gathering of information which can be accessed and responded to at leisure. We also hope to be a source of information on computer applications in Judaic Studies, such as hebrew word processing and textual analysis.

The Chovos HaLevavos emphasized the importance of thankfulness. We wish to thank all of the following people for their part in creating this letter: 1) Avrum Goodblatt, our mentor, whose constant encouragement seems to have finally gotten things off the ground. 2) Dr. Emanuel Tov, with whose help we have an account at Hebrew U from which to begin operations. 3) Dr. Kuzriel Meir, who has assisted both in computers and in Judaic Studies.

You may have been wondering who's been writing all this. Well may you wonder, since, impartial as he may try to be, an editor almost inevitably brings his own views into what he edits. My name is Yechiel Greenbaum. I am an observant Jew. I am interested in Judaica bibliography & reference, generally, and in what may be broadly defined as methodology of learning, specifically. I'd prefer to err on the side of being accurate and tho- rough.

Please send the electronic address of anyone who might be interested in receiving this letter. More important, please send your ideas of what you would like to see: questions you want answered; areas you'd like discussed; good ideas that you are working on (or that you wish someone else would save you the trouble of working on). Our electronic address is WWRMK at HUJIVM1. My mailing address is 5 Beit Shearim St., Kiryat Moshe, Jerusalem, ISRAEL. My phone is 02-536105

NEXT WEEK - Topology: Where Judaics Are Studied Further Acknowledgements