People and Community

Major Jewish Resource

The 2013 American Jewish Year Book, co-edited by UM’s Ira Sheskin, makes its debut.

The 2013 edition of the century-old American Jewish Year Book, widely considered the official record of North America’s Jewish communities, has debuted with two special focuses, one on innovations in Jewish education and the other on New York’s growing Jewish population.

“This volume thus continues a long tradition of presenting the best in research on the Jewish community,” said University of Miami professor Ira Sheskin, who for the second consecutive year served as co-editor of the premier resource on North America’s Jewish communities.

His fellow co-editor, Arnie Dashefsky, added that he and Sheskin sought to maintain the essential content of the yearbook pioneered by its first editor, Cyrus Adler. “We have included important articles on population statistics, including lengthy articles on New York Jewry, as well as the U.S. and world Jewish populations, along with timely essays on national and Jewish communal affairs, and concluding with an extensive set of lists of various Jewish organizations and academic resources, among others,” Dashefsky said.

First published in 1899, the American Jewish Year Book (AJYB) evolved over the decades into a major resource about and the primary venue for publication of scholarly articles of interest to North American Jewish communities. It also documented the changing demography and institutional structure of the Jewish community – until it began a brief hiatus between 2008 and 2012.

One of many to welcome the yearbook’s return, Jacob Solomon, president and CEO of the Greater Miami Jewish Federation, said having a current AJYB on his shelf “is like having a panel of experts on American Jewish life at the ready.”

“Well into its second century, the American Jewish Year Book continues to be an essential resource for serious leaders, practitioners, and students who seek to ground their work in solid research and up-to-date data,” Solomon said.

To celebrate the yearbook’s widely welcomed new release, the University of Miami Sue and Leonard Miller Center for Contemporary Judaic Studies and the George Feldenkreis Program in Judaic Studies will host a lecture on the 2013 edition on Wednesday, January 29, at 7:30 p.m.

Among the speakers will be Jonathan Woocher, an internationally recognized expert on Jewish education who contributed the 2013 yearbook’s analysis of some of the latest innovations in and the expansion of Jewish education’s “ecosystem” to encompass new actors, approaches, and agenda-setters. Among the topics discussed are the:

  • Growing efforts to redesign supplementary education and replace the outdated “Hebrew school” model, coupled with growth in areas like Jewish camp and family education, and day schools seeking to hold their own in the face of serious economic pressures;
  • The emergence of a vibrant innovation sector of new programs and organizations that are building connections for learners, especially young adults, between serious Jewish learning and areas of interest and concern like environmental sustainability, social justice, the arts, and spirituality;
  • The rise of private foundations as perhaps the major force setting directions for the field and providing the investment capital propelling the reconfiguration of the Jewish educational ecosystem.

The research on New York’s Jewish community also has great resonance because Jews living in New York account for more than 20 percent of American Jewry. Among the major findings:

  • After a four-decade decrease in population and a decade of stability, the Jewish population of New York increased over the past decade.
  • Orthodox Jews and Russian Jews together comprise about 40 percent of all Jews in the area.
  • There is significant poverty in the New York Jewish community.

Annette Gallagher can be reached at 305-284-1121.