Becoming Un-Orthodox: Stories of Ex-Hasidic Jews

ISBN : 9780199380503

Lynn Davidman
272 Pages
163 x 241 mm
Pub date
Jan 2015
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Leaving a religion is not merely a matter of losing or rejecting faith. For many, it involves dramatic changes of everyday routines and personal habits. Davidman bases her analysis on in-depth conversations with forty ex-Hasidic individuals. From these conversations emerge accounts of the great fear, angst, and sense of danger that come of leaving a highly bounded enclave community. Many of those interviewed spoke of feeling marginal in their own communities; of strain in their homes due to death, divorce, or their parents' profound religious differences; experienced sexual, physical, or verbal abuse; or expressed an acute awareness of gender inequality, the dissimilar lives of their secular relatives, and forbidden television shows, movies, websites, and books. Becoming Un-Orthodox draws much-needed attention to the vital role of the body and bodily behavior in religious practices. It is through physical rituals and routines that the members of a religion, particularly a highly conservative one, constantly create, perform, and reinforce the culture of the religion. Because of the many observances and daily rituals required by their faith, Hasidic defectors are an exemplary case study for exploring the centrality of the body in shaping, maintaining, and shedding religions. This book provides both a moving narrative of the struggles of Hasidic defectors and a compelling call for greater collective understanding of the complex significance of the body in society.


Introduction - Haredi Life: The Metanarrative and Religious Bodily Practices
Chapter 2 - Tears in the Sacred Canopy
Chapter 3 - First Transgressions
Chapter 4 - Passing
Chapter 5 - Stepping Out
Conclusion - You Can't Turn Off Your Past

About the author: 

Lynn Davidman is the Beren Distinguished Professor of Modern Jewish Studies at the University of Kansas. She is the author of Tradition in a Rootless World, which won a National Jewish Book Award, Motherloss, and Feminist Perspectives in Jewish Studies, co-edited with Shelly Tenenbaum. Her research has appeared in such journals as Sociology of Religion and Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion. She serves on the advisory board of the Center for the Study of Religion at Princeton University and is a member of the editorial board for Qualitative Sociology.

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