Founded in 1982, the Latin American Jewish Studies Association (LAJSA) promotes scholarly research on Latin American Jewry as a branch of Jewish Diaspora studies and as an element in the study of ethnicity in Latin America. LAJSA provides a forum for the scholarly exchange of ideas and research through conferences, publications, the development of courses offered at institutions of higher learning, and outreach to the general public.
LAJSA's network brings together scholars who are at work on related themes but who are geographically distant from one another. Members involved in a variety of academic disciplines such as history, literature, languages, economics, and anthropology are able to interact with one another across disciplinary boundaries through a membership directory, the semiannual Latin American Jewish Studies (reports of professional activities, critical reviews of scholarly work, and bibliography), and an electronic listserv (current news from Latin American Jewish communities, new publications, and announcements of upcoming events).
LAJSA is incorporated as a non-profit organization in the United States, in the state of Michigan. The association itself has no geographic base; its conferences have been hosted by American Jewish Archives-JIR (1982), University of New Mexico (1984), AMILAT – Research Association of Latin American Jewry in Israel and the World Union of Jewish Studies, Jerusalem (1985), University of Florida, Gainesville (1987), Universidad de Buenos Aires and AMIA – Ashkenazi Community of Buenos Aires (1988); University of Maryland, College Park (1991), Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs in Philadelphia (1993), Universidad Autónoma de Mexico and the Jewish communities of Mexico City (1995), Harvard University (1997), Princeton University (1999), Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro (2002), and Dartmouth College (2004). Publication of books and articles originally presented at these conferences established Latin American Jewish studies as an academic discipline and LAJSA as its representative within academia. Members of LAJSA and subscribers to its publications include major research libraries, as well as individual scholars, communal officials, and others with expertise in the field. LAJSA maintains fraternal relations with AMILAT, whose members are affiliated with LAJSA.
LAJSA was organized by Judith Laikin Elkin and a group of interested persons including Robert M. Levine, Saul Sosnowski, Jacobo Kovadloff, and Richard D. Woods. Elkin served as president until 1995 and as newsletter editor until her retirement in 1998. Scholars in 20 countries are now among LAJSA's members. In recent years, board members have been elected from the United States, Mexico, Brazil, and Israel. Officers in 2005 include president Leo Spitzer (Dartmouth), treasurer Darrell Lockhart (University of Nevada, Reno), manager of electronic list and archive Naomi Lindstrom (University of Texas, Austin), and newsletter editor Kenya C. Dworkin (Carnegie Mellon University). LAJSA maintains its website at www.acad.swarthmore.edu/lajsa.