The Canadian Society for Canadian Jewish Studies (CSJS) was founded in Winnipeg, Manitoba in 2004 with the goal to promote and facilitate the development of Jewish Studies in Canada. The CSJS meets annually and is a venue for the presentation of Jewish studies education, research and information primarily for faculty members, graduate students, and independent scholars living in Canada (even though residence in Canada is not required for membership).

This year’s conference, its thirteenth, met May 24th – 25th, 2017, at Concordia University, Montréal Québec. Several ZC affiliates presented at this conference:

1) Sarah Gelbard, a ZC Affiliate currently enrolled in the Ph.D. program at McGill University School of Urban Planning, presented her paper “Schlemihls and squatters: undesirable people and places in the city.”

Her paper examined how space is used by the marginalized. She noted that Jews and punks are generally (mis)represented as predominantly urban cultural groups—both with histories of being “undesirable” people who occupy marginal and “undesirable” spaces of the city. She raised two questions: What is the relationship between (un)desirable people and (un)desirable spaces? Who controls the definition or creation of urban desirability? In order to understand how space is used by these two particular groups she examined  the intersections between Jewish thought and subculture theory that suggest alternative readings  of place-making in contrast to mainstream planning.  Her conclusion addressed how alternative approaches to reading space might be rooted in shared experiences of being “undesirable” urban cultural groups and how this perspective can be a useful alternate to the formal readings most commonly employed in planning and architecture histories.

2) Deidre Butler, Associate Professor, College of the Humanities and Director of the Zelikovitiz Centre, and Betina Appel Kuzmarov,  Associate Dean (Students and Enrollment) and Assistant Professor, Law and Legal Studies, Carleton, and Member of the Zelikovitz Advisory Board presented “A Backhanded Agunah Kind of Craziness”: Rabbis speak about divorce in Ottawa.”

They presented an excerpt of their current research: a larger ethnographic study of Jewish Divorce in Canada that expands the circle of stakeholders beyond the Orthodox community, to include women, men, adult children, activists and rabbis who have experienced Jewish divorce. This material focused on the voices of rabbis and their accounts of Jewish divorce. While acknowledging that Jewish divorce impacts women in particular gendered ways, it is largely interpreted and practiced by men, understanding rabbinic behaviour is key to understanding the systemic and procedural context of Jewish divorce. Their stories illuminate the interplay between law and practice in both religious and civil domains. Their accounts of Jewish divorce speak to a need to balance their own commitments to Jewish practice and values with their overriding concern to prevent Agunot and momzerim, yet always cognizant of the civil law framework.

For more information on the CSCJ please visit http://www.csjs.ca/.