NEW YORK (JTA) – Student enrolment in Jewish studies classes is declining, and newly minted Jewish studies professors are having a significantly harder time finding tenure-track positions, a new survey found.
More than half of those who earned their doctorates since 2010 are looking to change their employment situation, according to the online survey of some 2,800 professors, graduate students, scholars and Jewish studies teachers worldwide. The study, which received responses from 60 per cent of the membership of the Association for Jewish Studies, was conducted by sociologist Steven M. Cohen of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion and sponsored by the American Academy for Jewish Research.
According to the survey, nearly four out of five of those who earned a doctorate before 1980 found a full-time, tenure-track position within one year, compared to only about half of those who finished between 1995 and 2009, and about one-third of those who finished since 2010.
While working in academia remains the overall preference of graduates (86 per cent would consider working in academia), 55 per cent of graduates are open to working in research institutions, 36 per cent each in higher education administration and non-profit institutions, 32 per cent in museums and 31 per cent at charitable foundations.
The survey found that 30 per cent of respondents reported some decline in enrolment in their classes, and 21 per cent some increase. The survey was conducted in 2014.
Overall, women comprise 48 per cent of the Jewish studies field, but generally earn less than men – at their jobs and in supplementary outside income – the study found.
The most widely taught Jewish studies courses are in modern Jewish history, Bible, Holocaust studies, ancient Jewish history, Jewish thought and theology, and Jewish literature. The teaching of Jewish social sciences is declining.
“Some of these challenges parallel what we see in other humanities disciplines; others are unique to Jewish studies,” said Brandeis professor Jonathan Sarna, president of the Association of Jewish Studies. “All need to be addressed.”