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Author(s): Šiljak, Lea
Date: 2003
Author(s): Hofman, Nila Ginger
Date: 2018
Date: 2018
Abstract: Problems of religious and ethnic identity are especially pertinent for people of Jewish heritage in post-Soviet states. Radical changes of the 20th century made the society more secular, put distinctions between definitions of being “Jew” and “Judaist”; the number of mixed marriages grew, and the young generations now learn traditions not from parents but from public lectures in Jewish communities. In this paper we have tried to find out what has brought young people to the Jewish community of Smolensk, why they choose to remain there, and whether they consider themselves Jewish. We have been especially interested in understanding
how much does religious identity influence the choice of ethnic identity, and vice versa.

The research is based on 8 in-depth interviews collected during Sefer Center’s trip to Smolensk Oblast in 2016. The interviewees
were selected according to the following criteria: regular visits to the synagogue (twice a month or more) and age between 14 and 35.

The working hypothesis is that the number, the frame of mind, and the identity of the young people who visit the synagogue are influenced by the following factors: 1) ethnic and religious identity of the family members and close people of the respondents and their disposition towards various confessions and ethnicities; 2) the rabbi’s policy in ethnic issues and traditions, how loyal he is to rule bending and now active he is in attracting the youth to the synagogue; 3) the environment: the influence of historically significant places of Smolensk Oblast and memories of remarkable historical events that occurred on its territory.

After analyzing the data we have drawn the following conclusions. The main reason for the interviewees to choose the Jewish identity is the prevailing of such identity in their parents. For those whose parents are both Jewish this argument is sufficient. If only parent is Jewish, a young person starts seeking for additional arguments to “allow” himself/herself be Jewish. Such reasons may be their sympathy towards Judaism and/or Jewish customs and the feeling of one’s “distinction”. Sometimes for the final integration into the Jewish environment the interviewees conduct Giyur or circumcision, the latter being not only for religious reasons. If the young people don’t feel such sympathies or don’t perform the special rituals for integration, they leave the community because they don’t feel enough “Jewishness” to remain there. The forming of one or another religious identity depends mostly on which identity is considered the right one in the family. Also, in contrast to ethnic identity, religious identity changes more often and is dependent on the person’s environment and period of time.

Thus, the working hypothesis has been confirmed in a number of points. 1) The forming of identities is indeed influenced by the identities of parents and social circles of the interviewees and the rabbi’s policy towards the youth and other members of the community. 2) It is also influenced to a lesser extent by which religious and ethnic identity is prevalent and considered normal in a particular region. Historical events and places have basically no influence on the identity formation.
Date: 2018
Abstract: The article considers the features of the correlation of ethnic and religious identifiers in the process of “revival” of the activities of the Jewish community of Perm in the post-Soviet period. Both types of identifiers which due to the specificity of Judaism as a nationally oriented religion analyzed as significant in the process of defining of phenomenon of the community. The main problem is that the cultural component of Judaism is the most important consolidating factor in the construction of the Jewish community. At the 1990’s. the community was a consolidated group, where Judaism is the connecting element. The cultural component of this system comes to the fore, and activities in this area contribute to the position of the community in the intercultural and urban space. Mass public events attested relevance of the cultural component of Judaism. Social and cultural activity had due to enter the Jewish community into the social space of the city, legitimizing its activity. Change of eras of the turn of the 1990s has contributed rise of appeal to the cultural component of the Jewish tradition. At the same time, cultural identity did not always fully coincide with the confessional one. Interviews with members of the community confirmed that the “revival” took place in Jewish cultural life, and the religious component played the role of an external occasion for the consolidation of the community. The emergence of religion from the “social ghetto” facilitated the observance of rites and norms of cult practice, accelerated the process of legitimizing the ethno-confessional community. The cultural component of Judaism is also a factor of internal communication in the community. The number of Jews who visited religious events and do not attend prayers, indicates the relevance of events that emphasize national identity. Getting a free meal by the older generation is also an economic factor that contributes to the consolidation of the community. The cultural activities of the community described by the respondents testify to the inclusion of Judaism in the inter-confessional sphere of the city. Project activity gives an opportunity to familiarize the population with Jewish culture, contributes to the regulation of interethnic relations within the society, and the formation of tolerant attitudes towards representatives of different faiths. Members and representatives of the Jewish community actively participate in religious events, which take place both in the walls of the synagogue and on city sites. The development and implementation of projects aimed at increasing the religious literacy of the population contributes to the formation of a tolerant society.
Date: 2018
Date: 2015
Date: 1997
Abstract: In many parts of the world today, ethnic identity is not merely the product of socialization, but is the result of conscious choice on the part of the individual. Nowhere is this more evident than in the countries of the former East Bloc, where sweeping political changes have removed many barriers to the expression of ethnic sentiment. The present work represents an attempt to build a generalizable model of ethnic identity construction by identifying the major influences on group conceptions of ethnic identity and describing the process by which those conceptions change over time. The primary case study focuses on the construction of ethnic identity among Polish Jews born after World War II. Conclusions are based primarily on data collected in interviews with members of that community. Traditionally, theories of ethnicity have posited a unity of beliefs, values or behaviors within an ethnic group. In contrast to traditional theories, the model proposed here focuses on major areas of conflict within groups, positing that conflict over issues deemed relevant in some degree to all members of the group is the driving force behind ethnic change. In choosing to identify, members of ethnic groups are presented with a set of issues, which are both important and controversial for the group, on which they feel obligated to take a position. The set of controversial issues relevant to a given group at a given time, the model posits, is determined by three factors: differences between cohorts arising from their formative experiences; differences between subgroups arising from conflicts between communal institutions; and differences between subgroups arising from their varied responses to input from outside groups. Whereas works on ethnicity in the field of political science have tended to focus on nationalism, or the pursuit of statehood by ethnic groups, this model treats nationalism and organized political behavior in general as a potential outgrowth of ethnicity, but not as its necessary byproduct.
Author(s): Hofman, Nila Ginger
Date: 2000
Abstract: My dissertation addresses the sociocultural processes which contribute to the construction of ethnocultural identity among Zagrebian Jews. I argue, contrary to the often essentialized perception of Jewish identity imposed by e.g. the Croatian government and Jewish international organizations, that Jewish identity in Zagreb is actively chosen in ways that are both idiosyncratic and contingent upon the surrounding sociocultural environment. At the heart of my argument is an appeal to the dynamic and contextual nature of identity negotiation, and the influence this has on the maintenance and survival of the Zagrebian Jewish community. In support of this, I have employed ethnographic methods to assess (i) the ways in which Jewish identity is negotiated by community members and (ii) the ways in which the meaning of Jewish community is sustained in Zagreb. With regards to (i), I conclude that Zagrebian Jews understand their identities in terms of symbolic ethnoreligiosity, i.e. in terms of feelings and nostalgic ideas about Jewish culture and tradition. With regards to (ii), I show that the history and development of Jewish identity in Zagreb can be traced through patterns of membership participation in various Jewish organizations prevalent in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. These patterns reveal the predominantly secular nature of the Zagrebian Jewish community. In light of this, I argue that community for Zagrebian Jews is ultimately defined symbolically through various types of social interaction among members. It is for this reason that the recent attempts of both international Jewish organizations and the Croatian government to impose an essentialized image of Jewish identity on the community are at odds with, and ultimately destructive to, the secular and improvisatory self-images of the members themselves.