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Jewish Orthodoxies: Social Science Perspectives

Mon, December 17, 3:00 to 4:30pm, Seaport Hotel & World Trade Center, Cityview 2 Ballroom

Session Submission Type: Lightning Session

Abstract

This Lightning Session explores the concept of "orthodoxies" as both a theoretical and local category for Jewish identity and difference. Jewish Orthodoxy emerged in the context of European modernity, with distinctive iterations developing in other contexts. This session examines the following four questions. 1) How are we to understand what is both a local descriptive category and an analytical, theoretical one? 2) What are distinctions between orthodoxies and "discursive tradition" (Asad 1986) or "traditionism" (Yadgar 2013)? 3) Where might the notion of orthodoxies differ from the term fundamentalism or nonliberal as an effort to create an analytical category for diverse forms of contemporary religious life that share a rejection of the liberal project? 4) How can we account for issues of translation of terms which have crossed from local categories to analytical ones (e.g., haredi)? This session asks what a social science perspective contributes to studies of orthodoxies especially in times of change, and we aim to expand conversations in Jewish Studies to address theoretical debates in related disciplines.

The seven panelists consider orthodoxies spanning the United States, Israel, Canada and France. Boyarin, writing about a yeshiva on Manhattan’s Lower East Side describes a community that claims a lost “middle ground” of orthodoxy. Mayne describes women’s tefilah groups across the United States that trouble clear categories of orthodox and liberal through claims to both traditional Judaism and gender equality. Raucher studies North American women clergy whose religious authority is established by claims to traditional gender roles. Everett examines a Parisian neighborhood where North African Jews and Muslims claim the term orthodoxy in contrast to the idiom of the French state. Dale looks at expressive culture (orthodox popular music) as a discourse, one which challenges assumptions about religiosity and orthodoxy. Roda examines gender and sexuality among Hasidic Jews in Montreal, exploring the relationships between orthodoxy, public and private. Finally, Zion-Waldoks problematizes the very process of attaching a common signifier of “orthodoxy” to intersectional ethnic, religious and national communities in Israel.

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