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Religious Practice and Cultural Politics in Jewish Copenhagen


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The small Jewish community of Copenhagen is one of the most liberal and assimilated in Europe. In its liturgy, its leadership, and its ritual practice, however, it maintains strictly orthodox forms. In this article, I examine how this orthodox dominance has persisted, despite the often vigorously expressed dissatisfaction of the liberal majority. I argue that the confluence of Jewish religious forms with the cultural setting of contemporary Denmark tends to confer control over ritual practice on the orthodox. The interaction of Jewish institutional structures with Danish social patterns leads to orthodox social control, whereas the interaction of Jewish religious ideas with the Danish cultural setting promotes cultural control. These outcomes have implications for social scientific approaches to contemporary conservative religious movements, which have often been characterized primarily as forms of opposition to modern social change. The political dynamics of such movements are not simple reflections of a broad opposition between tradition and modernity; they emerge out of the intricate and often unpredictable interplay of religious structures with the social and cultural worlds within which those structures are embedded.



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Link to article (paywalled), Religious Practice and Cultural Politics in Jewish Copenhagen

Bibliographic Information

Buckser, Andrew Religious Practice and Cultural Politics in Jewish Copenhagen. American Ethnologist. 2003: 102-117.  https://archive.jpr.org.uk/object-den9