Topics: Jewish Community, Jewish Identity, Chabad-Lubavitch, Interviews, Main Topic: Identity and Community, Outreach
Abstract: The article examines the Finnish branch of Chabad Lubavitch as a fundamentalist and charismatic movement that differs from other branches of ultra-Orthodox Judaism in its approaches to outreach to non-observant Jews. Whilst introducing the history of Chabad Lubavitch in Finland and drawing on historical and archival sources, the authors locate the movement in a contemporary context and draw on 101 semi-structured qualitative interviews of members of the Finnish Jewish communities, who either directly or indirectly have been in contact with representatives of Chabad Finland. The material is examined through the theoretical concept of ‘vicarious religion’. As the results of the article show, whilst Chabad very much adheres to certain fundamentalist approaches in Jewish religious practice, in Finland they follow a somewhat different approach. They strongly rely on people’s sense of Jewish identification and Jewish identity. Individuals in the community ‘consume’ Chabad’s activities vicariously, ‘belong without believing’ or ‘believe in belonging’ but do not feel the need to apply stricter religious observance. Whilst many of them are critical of Chabad and their activities, they do acknowledge that Chabad fills the ‘gaps’ in and outside the Jewish Community of Helsinki, predominantly by creating new activities for some of its members.
Topics: Intermarriage, Jewish Women, Jewish Identity, Jewish Community, Main Topic: Identity and Community
Abstract: Shortly after the Civil Marriage Act took effect in 1917 and the constitutional right to freedom of religion was implemented by the Freedom of Religion Act in 1922, the number of intermarriages started to rise in the Finnish Jewish congregations, affecting both their customs, and the structure of their membership. Initially, intermarried members and their spouses faced rejection in their congregations; however, during the second half of the twenty-first century, the attitudes towards intermarriages and intermarried congregants have changed significantly. Today, a high number of intermarriages is one of the key defining characteristics of Finnish Jewish communities. This article will concentrate on the vernacular practices of intermarried women in the Jewish Community of Helsinki and Turku. The core material of this article consists of semi-structured ethnographic interviews conducted in 2019 and 2020 with members of the two Finnish Jewish communities. The women presented in this study often combine models from different traditions. Instead of abandoning Judaism altogether, they ‘do Judaism in their own way’ by creating and (re)-inventing traditions they find meaningful for themselves and for their families.