Abstract: Jewish identities are becoming increasingly pluralised due to internal dynamics within Judaism and wider social processes such as secularisation, globalisation and individualisation. However, empirical research on contemporary Jewish identities often continues to adopt restrictive methodological and conceptual approaches that reify Jewish identity and portray it as a ‘product’ for educational providers and others to pass to younger generations. Moreover, these approaches typically impose identities upon individuals, often as a form of collective affiliation, without addressing their personal significance. In response, this article argues for increased recognition of the multiple and fluid nature of personal identities in order to investigate the diverse ways in which Jews live and perform their Jewishness. Paying greater attention to personal identities facilitates recognition of the intersections between different forms of identity, enabling more complex understandings of the ways in which individuals both define their own identities and contribute to redefining the boundaries of Jewishness.
Topics: Main Topic: Identity and Community, Gender, Jewish Women, Haredi / Strictly Orthodox Jews, Baal Teshuvah
Abstract: Feminist research into the position and participation of women in contemporary fundamentalist and traditionalist identity movements shows how essentialist ideologies of sexual difference are often deployed in critique of western secular liberal feminism. In this article the author draws a comparison between discourses of belonging according to studies of ba'alot teshuvahin the USA (female “returnees” to an Orthodox Jewish lifestyle), and her own interviews with “frumfrom birth” women (raised as haredi) in the strictly Orthodox Jewish community of Antwerp, Belgium. Whereas for the former, a rhetoric of choice, essentialism, and religious ideologies of female superiority appeared important, for the frum-born women, gender is more a question of orthopraxis and religious role equivalence. Nevertheless, the author argues that for the strictly Orthodox Jewish diasporic community in question, an increase in gender conservatism, with particular notions of female sexuality and modesty, goes hand in hand with isolationism vis-à-vis the surrounding secular society.
Discontinuity, Tradition, and Innovation: Anthropological Reflections on Jewish Identity in Contemporary Hungary
Abstract: Since the end of Communist rule Hungary has been re-examining its own national identity and so too have its Jewish citizens. The renegotiation and reconstruction of Jewish identity is characterized by the ability of individuals and groups to choose from a variety of identities. Choices, pace Giddens, are not made by some decontextualized individual in a quest for self-identity but rather in the context of social networks and resources. The choices are taken within a framework embracing the state, a mode of production and within the Jewish group which latter is not homogeneous. The author shows how internal and external links are mobilized and how cultural brokers act as agents in the development of new forms of Jewish identity.