Tradition in a Rootless World: Women Turn to Orthodox Judaism

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University of California Press, Jul 29, 1991 - Religion - 268 pages
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The past two decades in the United States have seen an immense liberalization and expansion of women's roles in society. Recently, however, some women have turned away from the myriad, complex choices presented by modern life and chosen instead a Jewish orthodox tradition that sets strict and rigid guidelines for women to follow.

Lynn Davidman followed the conversion to Orthodoxy of a group of young, secular Jewish women to gain insight into their motives. Living first with a Hasidic community in St. Paul, Minnesota, and then joining an Orthodox synagogue on the upper west side of Manhattan, Davidman pieced together a picture of disparate lives and personal dilemmas. As a participant observer in their religious resocialization and in interviews and conversations with over one hundred women, Davidman also sought a new perspective on the religious institutions that reach out to these women and usher them into the community of Orthodox Judaism.

Through vivid and detailed personal portraits, Tradition in a Rootless World explores women's place not only in religious institutions but in contemporary society as a whole. It is a perceptive contribution that unites the study of religion, sociology, and women's studies.

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Tradition in a rootless world: women turn to Orthodox Judaism

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Davidman (sociology and women's studies, Univ. of Pittsburgh) offers an intriguing sociological exploration of the world of Orthodox Judaism and its resurgence among modern American women. The ... Read full review

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well written, compelling and informative... the author has done a great job portraying the scene a Baalat Teshuvah encounters, and, eventually becomes a part of in her journey to find her place in Judaism... profound, and well written, thank you!

Selected pages


2 Women Judaism and Modernity
3 A Journey into Two Jewish Communities
4 Order Belonging and Identity
5 Women into Wives and Mothers
6 Teachings on Jewish Religious Observance
7 The Dynamics of Conversion
8 On Women and Religious Traditions in Modern US Society
Interview Guide for Baalot Teshuvah
Interview Guide for Rabbis
Questionnaire for Bais Chana Women

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Page 50 - Believing, with Max Weber, that man is an animal suspended in webs of significance he himself has spun, I take culture to be those webs, and the analysis of it to be therefore not an experimental science in search of law but an interpretive one in search of meaning.
Page 28 - To grasp concepts that, for another people, are experience-near, and to do so well enough to place them in illuminating connection with experience-distant concepts theorists have fashioned to capture the general features of social life...
Page 34 - Twentieth-century identities no longer presuppose continuous cultures or traditions. Everywhere individuals and groups improvise local performances from (^collected pasts, drawing on foreign media, symbols, and languages.
Page 84 - Catholics an awareness of other religions "did not undermine their own beliefs. Rather they felt that they had 'tested' the belief system and had been convinced of its superiority.
Page 166 - Mortification processes provide a new set of criteria for evaluating the self, and they transmit the message that the self is adequate, whole, and fulfilled only when it conforms to the model offered by the collectivity.
Page 31 - People may experience rewards, “but they can only have faith in compensators. A compensator is the belief that a reward will be obtained in the distant future or in some other context which cannot be immediately verified,” in return for rewards or value surrendered now.
Page 102 - You, who are on the road must have a code that you can live by.
Page 147 - ... free as much as possible from the demands of conformity to family, friends, or community. From this point of view, to be free psychologically is to succeed in separating oneself from the values imposed by one's past or by conformity to one's social milieu, so that one can discover what one really wants.
Page 33 - Maghrebin immigrants have the choice of resisting, "establishing strong boundaries with the broader culture, resisting cultural encroachments as much as possible, and setting the group up as a radical alternative," or accommodating, "adapting certain features of the religion to make it more consonant with secular ways of life

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About the author (1991)

Lynn Davidman is Dorot Assistant Professor of Judaic Studies and Sociology at Brown University.

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