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Hybrid Judaism: Irving Greenberg and the encounter with American Jewish identity

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Over the course of more than half a century, Rabbi Dr. Irving Greenberg has developed a distinctive theology of intra- and inter-group relations. Deeply influenced by his experiences in the Christian-Jewish dialogue movement, Greenberg's covenantal theology and image of God

Over the course of more than half a century, Rabbi Dr. Irving Greenberg has developed a distinctive theology of intra- and inter-group relations. Deeply influenced by his experiences in the Christian-Jewish dialogue movement, Greenberg's covenantal theology and image of God idea coalesce into what I refer to as Hybrid Judaism, a conceptualization that anticipated key aspects David Hollinger's notion of Postethnicity. As such, Greenberg's system of thought is mistakenly categorized (by himself, as well as others) as an expression of pluralism. The twentieth century arc of social theories of group life in America, from Melting Pot to Postethnicity by way of Cultural Pluralism, serves to highlight the fact that Greenberg is better located at the latter end of this arc (Postethnicity), rather than in the middle (Pluralism). Central to Greenberg's proto-postethnic theology is the recognition of the transformative power of encounter in an open society. Greenberg's ideas are themselves the product of such encounters. Understood fully, Hybrid Judaism has great relevance for American Jewish identity in the twenty-first century.

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2014

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Noaidi - the one who sees: bringing to light the religious experience among the 17th-18th century Sámi

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The ancient religious practices and beliefs of the indigenous people of Northern Scandinavia, known as the Sámi, have been misrepresented and misinterpreted by well meaning ethnographers and researchers who view such practices and beliefs through an Descartes-Cartesian, objective-subjective lens. This

The ancient religious practices and beliefs of the indigenous people of Northern Scandinavia, known as the Sámi, have been misrepresented and misinterpreted by well meaning ethnographers and researchers who view such practices and beliefs through an Descartes-Cartesian, objective-subjective lens. This thesis develops a more accurate, intersubjective paradigm that is used to illuminate more clearly the religious workings of the 17th-18th Century Sámi. Drawing upon the intersubjective theories presented by A. Irving Hallowell, Tim Ingold and Kenneth Morrison, ethnographic examples from the writings of early Lutheran missionaries and priests demonstrate that the Sámi lived in a world that can be best understood by the employ of the categories of Person (ontology), Power (epistemology) and Gift (axiology).

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2014

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Lost and found: Jewish women recovering tradition, remaking themselves

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Lost and Found:

Jewish Women Recovering Tradition, Remaking Themselves

This study explores the turn towards stringently observant Orthodox Judaism among lesser observant Jewish women ages late 40s to early 70s residing in a rapidly growing Sunbelt city. It seeks to answer three

Lost and Found:

Jewish Women Recovering Tradition, Remaking Themselves

This study explores the turn towards stringently observant Orthodox Judaism among lesser observant Jewish women ages late 40s to early 70s residing in a rapidly growing Sunbelt city. It seeks to answer three questions: what is the impulse that inspires such a fundamental life change; what is the process for making that change; and how does that change impact the sense of self, as individuals and within families and communities?

It is an ethnographic study that uses a qualitative, modified grounded theory methodology to gather and analyze data, allowing themes to arise from extensive field observation and intensive participant interviews. The data establish an underlying phenomenon of lost and found, a personal loss, compounded by a lessening or loss of religious grounding, which inspires a recovery of traditional religion and a remaking of identity.

Other key findings manifest a fluidity of religious identity and a propensity for change; the social nature of such identity and the significance of communal belonging in its progression; the impact of memory, history, generation, life course position and geographic location in inspiring and informing such a progression; a reframing of feminist assertions and gender roles within a traditional religious framework; an assertion of the existence of women’s interior life and assumption of personal responsibility for its realization; a reconciliation of a rhetoric of choice and individual autonomy within a traditional religious system.

In contrast to this study, previous scholarship focused on younger men and women, most in their 20s or 30s, the majority unmarried and without children. The prior studies took place several decades earlier in major metropolitan areas, most along the Eastern seaboard and in the Midwest, more densely populated with larger, older and more established Jewish communities.

This study elucidates a shift towards more traditional religion within American Judaism and within the broader context of American religion. It provides fertile ground for future study of age and stage of life, feminism and gender roles, individual autonomy, choice, communal responsibility and religious change.

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2018

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The history of niddah in America as social drama: genealogy of a ritual practice

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Since the 1960’s and 1970’s, ethnographic research on Jewish menstrual rituals known as niddah, Taharat HaMishpacha, or Family Purity has associated their practices with religious behavior. Much of this research organizes around questions of women’s agency within ostensibly patriarchally constructed

Since the 1960’s and 1970’s, ethnographic research on Jewish menstrual rituals known as niddah, Taharat HaMishpacha, or Family Purity has associated their practices with religious behavior. Much of this research organizes around questions of women’s agency within ostensibly patriarchally constructed religious practices that carry the potential to oppress its women practitioners. This premise is built upon a number of implicit assumptions about the history of today’s niddah practices: that niddah is observed exclusively by Orthodox Jews; that increasing rates of niddah observance correlate exclusively with the trend toward stricter observance levels among the Orthodox since the 1960s; and that this increasingly strict observance itself reflects a reactionary trend among the Orthodox community (a.k.a. tradition versus modernity). All these assumptions currently circulate, in various degrees, among the American Jewish lay community and are shared by a significant number of congregational rabbis. Until the 1990s, no history of niddah existed to either support or refute these assumptions. I initially intended that this project would provide future ethnographers with a comprehensive history of niddah in America during the past one and a half centuries. I engaged Victor Turner’s theory of Social Drama as a framework for understanding this history as a socio-cultural process, rather than as a series of less than related events. However, this study h*as resulted in the identification of many more specific assumptions about the decline and revival of niddah observance in the twentieth century, which are not supported by the scant evidence available. These challenged assumptions beg new directions for research; a thorough reworking of the history of niddah in America; and a fresh look at the literature advocating niddah produced in the 1990’s and early 2000’s. This genealogy as Social Drama presents niddah in twentieth century America as undergoing periods of crisis, negotiation, and reintegration. This drama was triggered by late nineteenth century concepts of religion, body, and ritual that undermined and ruptured the integrity of niddah as a bodily religious ritual practice. Niddah’s twentieth century social drama culminated in fresh articulations of a unique Jewish sexuality and Jewish marital ethic.

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2016