Call for Papers

Call for Papers: What’s Jewish about death? – A Special Issue of SHOFAR: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Jewish Studies 

Guest Editors: Laura Limonic, Assistant Professor of Sociology, SUNY Old Westbury; Tahneer Oksman, Assistant Professor of Academic Writing, Marymount Manhattan College 

Journal Editors: Eugene Avrutin, University of Illinois; Ranen Omer-Sherman, University of Louisville 

In her foreword to Jack Reimer’s foundational 1974 edited collection, Jewish Reflections on Death, a book that explores Jewish death and mourning through assorted lenses, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross inquires, “I have always wondered why the Jews as a people have not written more on death and dying. Who, better than they, could contribute to our understanding of the need to face the reality of our own finiteness?” Certainly, from the Kabbalah to dybbuks, from Sholem Aleichem to Roz Chast, there is no shortage of Jewish liturgical, mythological, literary, and cultural works incorporating related themes: of the boundaries between life and death; of the different approaches to philosophical, ethical, and religious questions pertaining to “the end”; and of ways of dealing with the practical and mundane matters that crop up around loss of life and its attendant issues. But the secondary literature on Jewish death and dying, i.e. historical, analytical, and comparative explorations of practices, rituals, beliefs, and narratives that span across Jewish landscapes, remains, as Kubler-Ross noted, surprisingly sparse. In this volume, we seek to put in conversation interdisciplinary investigations into whether, and if so how, contemporary Jews think and do death differently.

We are especially interested in cross-discursive explorations and are open to papers addressing the topic from a wide variety of viewpoints, including but not limited to:
• fictional and non-fictional stories of death and grief (including poetry);
• visual representations (art, photography, film, comics, collage, and/or graphic novels) of loss and its aftermaths;
• variations within or across ethnic, sub-ethnic, and racial groups and/or different regions and populations in relation to death and grieving practices and beliefs;
• material culture approaches to death and dying, including music, food, ceremony, clothing, etc.;
• social and communal functions of traditional and/or contemporary death rituals, rites, and ceremonies;
• connections and/or tensions between spiritual and/or traditional customs and observances and psychological or other models of grieving;
• gender and/or sexuality in death and grief;
• individual and communal trauma and attendant grief (genocide, suicide, etc.); and
• death, grief, and the body.

We welcome two categories of works: (1) short narrative-style pieces in the forms of poetry, visual narratives, and creative non-fiction prose; and (2) more traditional analytic research articles (in this category, hybrid-pieces incorporating first-person prose or creative non-fiction alongside research and analysis are also welcome).

Deadline for 250-word abstracts (or illustrative excerpts): August 15, 2018. In your abstract, please indicate what category of work you are submitting, (1) or (2), and the target length of your final piece. Email submissions, including a short bio, to and

Authors whose abstracts are accepted will be notified in early fall and asked to submit final pieces by March 1, 2019. There is no target length for the shorter narrative pieces (category 1), though authors should aim for 1,500-4,000 words of prose or 3-4 pages for visual narratives. For analytical research articles (category 2), manuscripts should be 7,000 to 10,000 words and conform to the latest Chicago Manual of Style, specifically, the short note format with a full bibliography (see examples below). Essays will be sent for review.