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Editor(s): Hartman, Harriet
Date: 2024
Abstract: There are less than 1300 Jews living in Finland who are members in the two officially Orthodox Jewish communities in Helsinki and in Turku. After the Civil Marriage Act was put in effect by the Finnish Parliament in 1917 the number of intermarriages between Jews and non-Jews started rising in the communities. Most of these marriages were officiated between Jewish men and non-Jewish women. In the beginning, the non-Jewish spouses kept their respective religious affiliations, but in many cases, their halachically non-Jewish children converted to Judaism. In the 1970s, adulthood conversions to Judaism became far more frequent in the communities—especially in the Jewish Community of Helsinki. Today, most of these individuals and their families concerned are still active members of the Jewish congregation. The high number of intermarriages and the conversions to Judaism have had a crucial impact on the development of the religious customs of local Jewry. Through the analysis of archival sources and new ethnographic material derived from semi-structured qualitative interviews, this case study investigates how intermarriages formed the traditions and habits in the families and in the communities. By relating the topic of intermarriage to the question of conversion, the study sheds light on institutional changes within the Jewish Community of Helsinki, and analyzes how women, who converted to Judaism in 1977, articulate and perform their religious practices, identities, and agencies when consciously aiming at building Jewish families.
Editor(s): Beck, Volker
Date: 2023
Author(s): Ariese, Paul
Date: 2024
Date: 2023
Abstract: Using a ‘lived religion’ approach, this chapter analyses interviews conducted with Orthodox Jewish women to investigate how women learn about kashrut [Jewish dietary] rules, the resources they use when dealing with kashrut problems, and the kashrut practices that they develop themselves. The research shows the persistence of mimetic, family-based models in the transmission and practice of kashrut among women, thus challenging the scholar Haym Soloveitchik’s famous claim that text-based learning has superseded mimetic learning in the modern Jewish world. The chapter suggests that the two types of learning are strongly gendered, and it explores the differences between the ways men and women learn about and understand kashrut practices. The research highlights the difference, and the tense relationship, between elite text-based culture (almost exclusively male in the Orthodox Jewish world) and popular practice (largely in the hands of women in Orthodox daily kashrut observance) and raises issues of rabbinic control and authority versus family loyalty and self-confidence. The study reveals the divergence between a nominally hegemonic authority of elite, male-authored texts and their interpretation by rabbis, and an unacknowledged lived religion in which women decide everyday ritual practice. Taylor-Guthartz suggests that to gain a complete picture of any religious tradition, knowledge of its elite written aspects must be balanced with the investigation of lived, everyday religious practice, and the complex relationships between these two elements must be appreciated and understood.
Date: 2023
Date: 2024
Abstract: This landmark study provides a detailed and updated profile of how British Jews understand and live their Jewish lives. It is based on JPR’s National Jewish Identity Survey, conducted in November-December 2022 among nearly 5,000 members of the JPR research panel. It is the largest survey of its kind and the most comprehensive study of Jewish identity to date.

The report, written by Dr David Graham and Dr Jonathan Boyd, covers a variety of key themes in contemporary Jewish life, including religious belief and affiliation, Jewish education and cultural consumption, Jewish ethnicity, Zionism and attachment to Israel, antisemitism, charitable giving and volunteering, and the relationship between community engagement and happiness.

Some of the key findings in this report:

Just 34% of British Jews believe in God ‘as described in the Bible’. However, over half of British Jewish adults belong to a synagogue and many more practice aspects of Jewish religious culture.
94% of Jews in the UK say that moral and ethical behaviour is an important part of their Jewish identities. Nearly 9 out of 10 British Jews reported making at least one charitable donation yearly.
88% of British Jews have been to Israel at least once, and 73% say that they feel very or somewhat attached to the country. However, the proportion identifying as ‘Zionists’ has fallen from 72% to 63% over the past decade.
Close to a third of all British Jewish adults personally experienced some kind of antisemitic incident in the year before the survey, a much higher number than that recorded in police or community incident counts.
Author(s): Badder, Anastasia
Date: 2024
Abstract: In the lives of students in Luxembourg’s Liberal Jewish complementary school, flexibility and mobility are highly valued as key characteristics of modern living. Complementary school students feel they easily meet these criteria—they are multilingual, cosmopolitan, and their approach to Jewish life is flexible, and equally importantly, they look, dress, and comport themselves “like everyone else.” These factors are understood to facilitate multiple movements and belongings in the contemporary world. The students directly contrast their ways of being with those of more observant Jews whom they refer to as “religious”; the material, embodied, and visible nature of observant Jewish life is perceived to be an impediment to participation and success in the secular sphere. However, when Jewishness appears in these students’ secular school classrooms, it is most often represented by Orthodox-presenting men—often a man in a yarmulke. Further, these men and their yarmulkes are taken to represent all Jews, framed as a homogeneous group of religious adherents. For many complementary school students, these experiences can be jarring—they suddenly find themselves on the “wrong” side of the religious–secular divide and grouped together with those from whom they could not feel more distant. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork and a material approach to religion, this article argues that the yarmulke comes to point to different levels and modes of observance and identities and enable different possible belongings in the secular public sphere as it travels across contexts that include different definitions of and attitudes toward religion and Jewishness.
Date: 2023
Abstract: This article explores the relationship between marriage and conversion from a critical gender perspective, based on a comparative ethnographic study of women’s conversion to Judaism, Islam and Christianity in the Netherlands. In the study of religion and gender, a valuable conceptual framework developed that questions the limited representation of religious women (as somehow ‘oppressed’) and recognises agency within observance. However, up to now, theories and conceptualisations of female conversion have not been able to successfully deal with the tension between individual agency and relationality, more concretely: between individual choice and the impact of intimate relationships. This article suggests a framework more capable of grasping the complexities of conversion and marriage, by introducing the concept of mixedness. In this approach, relationships are understood as agential spaces of religious becoming. Conversion forms and reforms what is ‘mixed’ within a relationship, and intimate relationships indeed play an important role in religious becoming. The goal is to move beyond the binary options that women seem to have to vocalise their process: either they convert because of someone else (implying less agency) or their religious transformation is an expression of autonomous, individual choice (neglecting the impact of relationships). Mixedness highlights the dynamic and fluid aspects of intimate relationships, whilst simultaneously focusing on the interactions between the couples’ experiences of mixedness and social norms of majority and minority religio-racial groups.
Date: 2023
Date: 2022
Abstract: Research about the relation between migration and mental health as well as factors influencing the mental health of migrants has been growing because challenges of migration can constitute a significant mental health burden. However, its divergent findings seem to reflect group-specific differences, e.g., regarding country of origin and receiving country. Almost no empirical studies about individual migrant groups in different receiving countries have been undertaken so far. The present population-based study explores symptoms of depression, anxiety, and somatization as well as quality of life in an Austrian and a German sample of ex-Soviet Jewish migrants. We mainly investigate the relationship of religiosity and perceived xenophobic and anti-Semitic discrimination to the psychological condition of the migrants. Standardized self-report scales, specifically the Beck-Depression-Inventory-II (BDI), State-Trait-Anxiety-Inventory (STAI), Brief Symptom Inventory (BSI), and WHO Quality of Life Questionnaire (WHOQOL-BREF), were used to measure mental health. Ex-Soviet Jewish migrants in Austria showed significantly more depression, anxiety, and somatic symptoms than those in Germany. Regression analyses support a protective effect of religiosity on mental health in the sample in Germany and an adverse effect of perceived discrimination in the sample in Austria. The present study reveals a less favorable situation for ex-Soviet Jewish migrants in Austria, in terms of income, residence status, and xenophobic attitudes in the local population, compared to the group in Germany. Furthermore, our data suggest that the receiving country matters for the mental health of this migrant group. However, further research is needed to support these conclusions.
Author(s): Tóth, Katalin
Date: 2018
Author(s): Tóth, Katalin
Date: 2019
Abstract: Selon la tradition, ce n’étaient pas les Juifs qui gardaient le Shabbat, mais c’était le Shabbat, qui gardait les Juifs pendant des milliers des années. Malgré le fait que le contenu et le sens de l’institution du Shabbat est caractérisé par de changements continus, il représente, en effet, un élément de la tradition multicolore et complexe du peuple Juif, contribuant à la construction et à la maintenance de l’identité même au 21ième siècle. Dans mon étude, j’examine l’importance du Shabbat dans les vies des individus, et dans celles des communautés de deux synagogues budapestoises de nos jours. Je m’appuierai sur mes deux études sur le terrain réalisées dans deux synagogues des courants neo-orthodoxe et néologue. En comparant les résultats de ces recherches, je démontrerai comment les interdictions du Shabbat puis les conditions, et les défis du monde moderne – par exemple le renoncement aux outils de la télécommunication ou bien aux moyens du transport public – résultent de stratégies d’harmonisation différentes. Les communautés Juives modernes et postmodernes doivent faire face aux problèmes inconnus auparavant: chaques communautés disposent de réponses officielles aux questions de la circulation, ou du réchauffement du repas pendant Shabbat, de l’usage du smartphone ou l’ordinateur, etc., et entre les murs de la synagogue, les membres de la communauté sont obligés de se comporter selon ces règles. D’après mes expériences les réponses individuelles diffèrent souvent de la résolution officielle, et la communauté peut prendre des sanctions contre les offenseurs d’un comportement impropre – en général ce sont plutôt des avertissements oraux. L’examen de la vie privée est hors contrôle de la communauté, puisque c’est l’individu soi-même qui construit son identité, et qui décide s’il préfère adhérer aux régulations de Shabbat ou acheter une paire de jeans. Toujours est-il, que dans la majorité des cas il y a une contradiction entre la pratique réelle et l’image idéalisé du comportement individuelle. Par de réponses et de réflexions individuelles, je montrerai un aperçu de la vie Juive de Budapest de nos jours. Une des forces organisatrices de cette vie est l’effort fait pour s’identifier dans une société du 21ième siècle déterminée par de règles religieuses, la tradition, mais également par la science et la technique.
Date: 2022
Abstract: This article draws on an ongoing research project that seeks to document ethnographically everyday Jewish life in Finland today. Based on the framework of vernacular religion, it approaches religion “as it is lived” (Primiano 1995) and analyses the many expressions and experiences of rules in day-to-day Jewish life as part of complex interactions between individuals, institutions, and religious motivations. Historical data, institutional structures and cultural context are put in dialogue with individual narratives and nuances, described as “self-motivated” ways of “doing” religion.

In this article, we seek to investigate what a vernacular Jewish approach to making, bending, and breaking rules amounts to in a community where increasing diversity and deep-reaching secularity contest and reshape traditional boundaries of belonging. What rules are accepted, adopted and appropriated as necessary or meaningful for being and doing Jewish? Our analysis traces how static values and conceptions of “Jewishness” give way to more flexible subjective positions as our interviewees struggle to find religiously and culturally significant models from the past that can be subjectively appropriated today. Both everyday quandaries and existential questions influence their ways of crafting vernacular religious positions. Focusing on formal and personal rituals related particularly to family life and foodways, the article shows how rules are revisited and refashioned as the traditional boundaries between sacred and secular, gendered practices and ethnic customs, are transgressed and subjective combinations are developed.
Date: 2010
Author(s): Salner, Peter
Date: 2021
Abstract: This paper analyses how the Jewish community in Bratislava dealt with the first and second waves of the COVID-19 pandemic that took place between the 1st March 2020 and 30 May 2021. Because the public health measures in force at the time rendered traditional ethnological research methods inapplicable, the author’s main source of information was the online communication of the leadership and administration of the Bratislava Jewish Religious Community (JRC) with its members. On the 9th March 2020, the government implemented the first battery of public health measures. Already on the same day, the JRC released a newsletter encouraging its members to observe the authorities’ guidance. It also cancelled all of its scheduled activities. The leadership would go on to distribute masks and hygiene supplies to the oldest members of the community, facilitate the vaccination of Holocaust survivors. Part of Slovak society compared restrictions on social contacts, a mask mandate, and a limitation on free movement to the suffering of the Jews in the Wartime Slovak State, highlighting this supposed parallel by wearing yellow stars. The effective limits on social contacts brought communal life within the community to a standstill, which had a particular effect on the older generations. The pandemic also inevitably led to a ban on communal worship and necessitated adjustments in the observance of traditional Jewish holidays, particularly Pesach. In many families, the communal Seder supper was held online via Zoom or Skype. The community had also to improvise during Hannukah, with an Orthodox or liberal rabbi assisting in the lighting of candles in the homes of members who requested it.
Date: 2021
Abstract: Taking traditional communities as exemplifiers of 'tradition-in-action', this thesis is based on semi-structured interviews and observations with Amish communities in the United States and a Jewish community in the United Kingdom. This research challenges antithetical notions of inert tradition versus a fluid, dynamic modernity within sociological literature, which has a tendency to posit tradition as temporally and spatially outside of modernity. Drawing on literatures that intersect sociological disciplines, particularly community studies, religion, diasporas, tradition and theories of contemporary (late/liquid) modernity (Giddens, 1991; Bauman, 2000), it explores ways in which these Amish and Jewish communities - described here as religion-oriented diasporic communities - negotiate the fluid conditions of contemporary modernity. It asks questions about what these negotiations reveal about the nature of contemporary modernity and how shedding new light on community boundaries, belonging and practices helps us to rethink and challenge prevailing meanings of community under contemporary conditions. Through the findings, the research asserts that rather than being fixed, these communities exhibit varied communal boundaries, from non-negotiable to fluid, as well as fluctuating and contingent levels of belonging and socially situated practices and narratives that adaptively reproduce community to enable communal thriving. In so doing, it explores themes such as boundary-keeping processes, the appeal of embedding and the social/kinship networks that comprise community and form a basis for 'doing' community together. This research project makes methodological contributions, reflecting on the 'insider/outsider' researcher positionality, as well as cultural and logistical considerations with harder-to-access communities. Though these case studies are not intended to provide direct or simple 'like for like' comparison, themes emerging from both case studies highlight the multi-layered nature of belonging to communities conceptualised as traditional in a fluid, ever-changing modernity, effectively siting such communities and modernity as inseparable and co-constitutive.
Date: 2020
Abstract: This article introduces a new analytical model for researching vernacular religion, which aims to capture and describe everyday religiosity as an interplay between knowing, being, and doing religion. It suggests three processes that tie this triad together: continuity; change; and context. The model is envisaged as a tool for tracing vernacular religion in ethnographic data in a multidimensional yet structured framework that is sensitive to historical data and cultural context, but also to individual narratives and nuances. It highlights the relationship between self-motivated modes of religiosity and institutional structures, as well as influences from secular sources and various traditions and worldviews.

The article is based on an ongoing research project focusing on everyday Judaism in Finland. The ethnographic examples illustrate how differently these dynamics play out in different life narratives, depending on varying emphases, experiences, and situations. By bringing together major themes recognized as relevant in previous research and offering an analytical tool for detecting them in ethnographic materials, the model has the potential to create new openings for comparative research, because it facilitates the interlinking of datasets across contexts and cultures. The article concludes that the model can be developed into a more generally applicable analytical tool for structuring and elucidating contemporary ethnographies, mirroring a world of rapid cultural and religious change.
Author(s): Tzadik, Efrat
Date: 2012
Abstract: This research introduces an anthropological perspective in the debate on religious identity and the workplace. In particular, it examines the relationship between Jewish identity and practices and the workplace in Belgium, with a focus on gender issues. Thanks to in-depth interviews with a number of Jewish women in Brussels about their daily experiences in the workplace and extensive field work in this community, valuable and generally difficult to access data regarding Jewish women’s workplace participation, perceptions, and experiences has been collected and analyzed. There is a complex relationship between Jewish identity, practices and the perception of the respondents as it relates to the workplace and their own position. Perceived hostility towards Israel and the Jewry is a recurrent issue amongst the respondents. As Judaism is often connected to the State of Israel and the current political climate, individual Jewish women are sometimes confronted with unpleasant or negative comments or experiences in the workplace. Besides forming a strong deterrent for many of the respondents to participate in the mainstream workforce, this puts a lot of pressure on those women working for non-Jewish organizations. To a certain extent, Jewish practices are adapted, modified and negotiated by the working Jewish women to meet the demands of dominant norms in the modern Belgian workplace. In addition, the ‘coping mechanisms’ that are applied by the respondents are frequently gender-specific and family-motivated.
Date: 2022
Abstract: The third of four mini-reports highlighting different aspects and findings from JPR’s major study ‘The Jewish identities of European Jews: what, why and how’, dives deeper into the different religious lifestyles and denominations of European Jews. Is there a single Jewish voice – or a majority Jewish voice – that represents the entire community? And if there is one – who holds it? In today’s political culture, understanding lifestyle differences within ethnic and religious groups is critical, both to understand their needs and concerns, and to address them.

The new mini-report highlights different aspects of how European Jews express their Jewishness through their choice of denomination – or lack of – and through different Jewish rituals:

• The most numerically significant subgroup is the ‘Just Jewish’ (38%), a general category indicating no clear denominational alignment, followed by the ‘Traditional’;
• European Jewry is undergoing a process of desecularisation: Today, across Europe, the share of more religious persons (Haredi and Orthodox) among younger age groups is substantially larger than among the older;
• The most traditional communities are those in Western Europe. In these communities, about 40%-60% of adult Jews identify as Traditional, Orthodox or Haredi;
• The less traditionally observant lifestyles are in the 74%-78% range in Denmark, Sweden and the Netherlands, and reach 90% in Hungary and Poland;
• Attending a Passover Seder and fasting on Yom Kippur are observed by most Jews, including those outside of the Haredi/Orthodox fold. Lighting candles on Friday night and keeping kosher at home are also observed by a much broader range of Jews than just those from the Haredi and Orthodox communities.
The report is based on research conducted in twelve European Union Member States in 2018, which, together, are home to about 80% of the Jewish population of Europe. The study includes the opinions and experiences of over 16,000 respondents – the largest sample of Jews ever surveyed in Europe.
Date: 2020
Abstract: This chapter analyses the intersections between Judaism, conversion, belonging, and gender, through the lived material practice of the tallit. Conversion to a religious tradition is not merely a change in mind set, but rather implies the learning, performance and negotiation of a religious habitus. This is especially the case with conversions to Judaism, or giyur, which focuses on the learning of practices and commitment to synagogue life. Such process of ‘self-making’ is directly related to questions of gender and the possibility of taking on certain objects and tasks. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork, this chapter traces how conversion materialises in daily ritual practice for women in various Jewish communities in the specific ritual use of the prayer shawl, or tallit. Gender equality has been one of the prime topics by which liberal Judaism came to distinguish itself from orthodoxy in the Netherlands. A symbol of this difference is the use of the tallit by women, both in the local Dutch context as well as internationally. Historically, women have been excluded from Shul life, and wearing a tallit, as is permitted in liberal synagogues, can be revolutionary as a marker of inclusion. For converted women in the Jewish diaspora of the Netherlands, wearing the tallit in service can be a confirmation of their Jewishness, but is more often met with ambivalence. Some don’t practice, because they do not want to disturb the status quo, or because they see value in gender segregation in shul. Others do, for equally varied reasons, from political quests for emancipation, to pious desires for submission and devotion. As a compromise, specific forms of ‘women’s tallit’ have entered the synagogues, worn by women who do so out of pious desire. This chapter starts from these various prayer shawl practices, to trace broader questions of belonging. It asks not only how this object is used, but also which types of gender discourses, pious desires, and notions of agency are expressed through the use (or lack thereof) of a tallit.
Date: 2020
Date: 2019
Abstract: Религиозная идентичность, даже в рамках одного течения прогрессивного иудаизма, является неоднородной и во многом зависит от культурного, политического и социального контекстов, в котором находится та или иная община. Прогрессивное течение призвано гармонизировать современный мир и традицию иудаизма в соответствии с запросами индивида. Основная проблема предлагаемого исследования связана с тем, что на уровне идеологии — учения прогрессивного иудаизма — существует определенный набор маркеров идентичности, но на практике — в отдельных общинах — этот набор может трансформироваться. Для выявления устойчивой модели идентичности в прогрессивном иудаизме необходимо рассматривать отдельные кейсы — российский случай является одним из них и заслуживает тщательного научного анализа
(автор рассматривает общину «Ле-Дор Ва-Дор»). Реконструируемая на основе идей Клода Монтефиоре и Лили Монтегю философия прогрессивного иудаизма сравнивается в настоящей статье с российским вариантом прогрессивного иудаизма. В результате исследования автор приходит к выводу о том, что идентичность в общине «Ле-Дор Ва-Дор» конструируется за счет философской идеи универсализма, которая позволяет людям нееврейского происхождения становиться членами общины. Философское обоснование модификации ритуалов основано на концепции Informed choice. Сравнение общей философской мысли в прогрессивном иудаизме с учением в общине «Ле-Дор Ва-Дор» показывает, что сообщество
вырабатывает определенные стратегии идентичности исходя из культурного контекста. Влияние культурного контекста отразилось в отношении к однополым бракам, а также в некоторых ритуальных сторонах жизни указанной общины в России
Date: 2019
Abstract: Статья посвящена истории обряда капарот и его сегодняшней практике в московских общинах. Автор рассматривает различные версии возникновения обычая и его интеграции в еврейскую среду. До начала XX в. обряд капарот был популярен среди ашкеназского еврейства, но после Катастрофы ситуация изменилась.
Последующие годы в Советском Союзе также не способствовали восстановлению религиозной жизни и любому проявлению еврейской идентичности. О капарот напоминали лишь пословицы и поговорки. Но со сменой власти многое в жизни российских евреев изменилось, появилась возможность «вспомнить» обряд. Однако в новых реалиях обычай выглядел совсем не гуманно, поэтому большинство из тех, кто придерживается этой практики, заменяют живую птицу (в обряде ее крутят над головой и затем режут) деньгами, что тоже встречается в еврейской традиции. Представителями московского еврейского общества капарот воспринимается в том числе как акт благотворительности. Можно предположить, что такое
понимание обряда со временем может отодвинуть на второй план идею искупительного замещения, которая была изначально в нем заложена.