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Contested "Knowledge" in Contemporary Jewish Life

Sun, December 16, 10:00 to 11:30am, Seaport Hotel & World Trade Center, Harborview 3 Ballroom

Session Submission Type: Panel Session


Fifteen years ago, the American Jewish community "knew" that its population was declining. Today, the population is larger than it has ever been and is growing.

Twenty years ago, much of the American Jewish community "knew" that a short-term peer-group trip to Israel could not possibly affect participants’ Jewish identities. Today, a generation of American Jews have been transformed by Birthright Israel.

Fifty years ago, the American Jewish community "knew" that intermarriage was an existential threat to communal survival. Today, although some still hold this view, interfaith families are integral to the community’s growth and well-being.

What "knowledge" does the Jewish community hold today that should be contested? What things are "known" to be good for the Jewish community that, upon closer examination, turn out not to be so good after all? And what things are "known" to be bad for the Jewish community that turn out not to be harmful after all?

Tobin Belzer's paper, "In It Together: A Qualitative, Longitudinal Study of Jewish Organizational Culture," will assess the ways some Jewish communal professionals find their own Jewish practices and feelings about Jewishness affected by their work.

Bruce Phillips' paper, "Christian and Jewish: Where Do We Draw the Line?," will use data from the Pew Research Center’s 2013 national study of the US Jewish community to examine the Jewish attitudes, affiliations, and religious practices of "Christian Jews," individuals who are Christian but identify as Jewish in some way.

Matthew Boxer’s paper, "Doom: Is It Good for the Jews?," will draw on theories of group cohesion, identity, and persuasion, and use data from national, local, and program evaluation studies to explore ways a narrative of doom is used in Jewish educational, philanthropic, religious, and advocacy settings to promote in-group identification, fundraising, and public policy goals.

Jennifer Thompson will respond to the three papers from the perspective of Jewish ethics and sociology. Deborah Dash Moore will chair the panel.

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