U of T journal seeks to make Jewish thought accessible

Karin Nisenbaum

Karin Nisenbaum, executive editor of the University of Toronto Journal of Jewish Thought, said she hopes the online publication will make complex scholarly topics more accessible to people who are interested in exploring some of life’s most difficult questions.

“We don’t want the journal to be one that only speaks to an academic audience. The idea is to show… how Jewish works and ideas can answer questions that arise in the course of reflecting on human life,” said Nisenbaum, a philosophy PhD candidate at U of T who hails from Mexico.

“When we introduce the articles, we try in some way to connect it to questions that are relevant to our readers.”

The journal, which was founded in 2009, is run entirely by graduate students.

Nisenbaum said that she proposed the idea of an online journal in 2008, when religion professor Hindy Najmin, the former director of the Centre for Jewish Studies, asked students for “ideas about how to reinvigorate the activities of the centre… She was very supportive of the idea.”

The journal is funded by the Tikvah Fund, an organization that offers grants to promote Jewish scholarship, and it’s supported by the Centre of Jewish Studies.

The editorial board is made up of Jewish studies faculty such as Najman, philosophy professors Paul Franks and Robert Gibbs, and religion professor David Novak.

“Each year, the journal is structured around specific themes,” Nisenbaum said.

“The first issue was about religion and reason, the second issue was on the concept and practice of repentance, and the third issue that we’re working on now is on the notions of divine love in Jewish thought.”

The third issue, which Nisenbaum is currently work on with associate editors Jessica Radin and Alex Green, is set to come out in May.

Each issue, comprised of articles, book reviews, poems and a feature interview, covers a broad range of disciplinary fields, including philosophy, theology, history and literature.

Submissions come from scholars from all over North America, Europe and Israel.

Nisenbaum, who spoke to The CJN from Yale University, where she’s working with her PhD supervisor Franks, said she’s thrilled about the interview subject for the upcoming issue.

“This year, we’re very excited because we’re interviewing professor Warren Harvey, who is professor emeritus of Jewish thought at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.”

She added that late last month, Harvey, a leading expert on the subject, delivered the first annual Toronto Journal of Jewish Thought lecture, titled “Notions of divine and human love in Jewish thought.”

“About 50 people showed up for the lecture, which is unheard of at U of T,” she said.

Nisenbaum said she’s also encouraged by the attention the journal’s Twitter account is getting, as nearly 100 people are following its tweets.

“Every year I think more attention is being drawn to the journal.”

The journal is currently only available online, but she said the goal is to produce a print edition for future issues.

To access past issues, visit www.cjs.utoronto.ca/tjjt/.