Roots and Routes: Identity Development of Researcher and Researched in a Jewish Youth Movement Context
Topics: Reform/Liberal/Progressive Judaism, Youth Movements, Jewish Identity, Informal Education, Interviews, Methodology, Main Topic: Identity and Community
Abstract: This thesis examines the issue of ethnicity and kinship and explores the advent of identity formation, specifically in a Reform Jewish context, via youth movement participation. Through the mediums of informal education, focus group discussion and individual semi-structured interviews, I engage in an exploration of identifying what it means to be Jewish, how youth movements augment and abet Jewish identity formation, and the boundaries that exist between young Jews and their host communities. Youth movement youngsters are observed in situ and Grounded Theory (Strauss, 1987; Glaser, 1978; Glaser, 1992; Glaser, 1998; Glaser, and Strauss, 1968) is employed to elucidate their engagements and interactions. Three case studies (Stake, 1995) are then presented to illustrate the experience of youth movement “graduates”. Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (Smith, 2004; Smith and Osborn, 2003) is used to consider the dimensions of their relationship to Judaism, their youth movement and mainstream society. I conclude that Jewish Identity is a combination of the Motivational and the Situational imperatives. The combined values of religion, culture and national affinity provide the motivational forces. Situational factors inducing Jewish identity amongst youth movement members are the ever wider boundaries they create for themselves and that are created for them. The first boundary of these youngsters that I identify is their movement loyalty relative to other Jewish youth movements; the next is their Reform Judaism within a wider Jewish context and the broader category is their “Jewishness” in a wider society. This “Jewishness” is expressed through the desire for Jewish Continuity (the future of the Jewish people) and the perpetuation of the feeling of “otherness”. The final chapter charts my developing identity as a researcher. I pose and answer questions taken from throughout the thesis to illustrate my trajectory along the route of becoming a researcher and interpolating my Jewish roots and their significance in my identity development.