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Yeshiva Fundamentalism: Piety, Gender, and Resistance in the Ultra-Orthodox World

Overview

2009 Choice Outstanding Academic Title

The ultra-Orthodox yeshiva, or Jewish seminary, is a space reserved for men, and for a focus on religious ideals. Fundamentalist forms of piety are usually believed to be quite resistant to change. In Yeshiva Fundamentalism, Nurit Stadler uncovers surprising evidence that firmly religious and pious young men of this community are seeking to change their institutions to incorporate several key dimensions of the secular world: a redefinition ...

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Yeshiva Fundamentalism: Piety, Gender, and Resistance in the Ultra-Orthodox World

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Overview

2009 Choice Outstanding Academic Title

The ultra-Orthodox yeshiva, or Jewish seminary, is a space reserved for men, and for a focus on religious ideals. Fundamentalist forms of piety are usually believed to be quite resistant to change. In Yeshiva Fundamentalism, Nurit Stadler uncovers surprising evidence that firmly religious and pious young men of this community are seeking to change their institutions to incorporate several key dimensions of the secular world: a redefinition of masculinity along with a transformation of the family, and participation in civic society through the labor market, the army, and the construction of organizations that aid terror victims. In their private thoughts and sometimes public actions, they are resisting the demands placed on them to reject all aspects of the secular world.

Because women are not allowed in the yeshiva setting, Stadler’s research methods had to be creative. She invented a way to simulate yeshiva learning with young yeshiva men by first studying with an informant to learn key religious texts, often having to do with family life, sexuality, or participation in the larger society. This informant then invited students over to discuss these texts with Stadler and himself outside of the yeshiva setting. This strategy enabled Stadler to gain access to aspects of yeshiva life in which a woman is usually unable to participate, and to hear “unofficial” thoughts and reactions which would have been suppressed had the interviews taken place within the yeshiva.

Yeshiva Fundamentalism provides an intriguing — and at times surprising — glimpse inside the all-male world of the ultra-orthodox yeshivas in Israel, while providing insights relevant to the larger context of transformations of fundamentalism worldwide. While there has been much research into how contemporary feminism has influenced the study of fundamentalist groups worldwide, little work has focused on ultra-Orthodox men’s desires to change, as Stadler does here, showing how fundamentalist men are themselves involved in the formulation of new meanings of piety, gender, modernity and relations with the Israeli state.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“n this ground-breaking work, Stadler accomplishes the seemingly impossible by penetrating the exclusive male enclave of the ultra-orthodox yeshiva. Her methods are not merely innovative, but truly inspired. The results are remarkable.”
-Shaul Kelner,Vanderbilt University

“This brief but exceptionally rich ethnography of the Haredi, the ultra-Orthodox male Yeshiva world in Israel, is an important contribution on many levels. Stadler successfully pioneers a methodology for studying an institution she cannot directly access: the methodologically preferred field approach—participant-observation of behavior—is, in this setting, not possible for a woman. She gets around thisbarrier by using alternative tools. Moreover, given the dearth of true observational studies of this bastion of male Jewish learning, this pioneering effort not only unravels some complexities of the Yeshiva world, but also uncovers the seeds of rebellion brewing among younger scholars who are verbalizing objections to their teachers’ rejection of integration and full participation in Israeli society. . . . If Stadler’s analysis is correct, a mini-revolution is in the offing for Haredi society and its future role and status in Israel. A must read! . . . Essential.”
-Choice

,

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780814740491
  • Publisher: New York University Press
  • Publication date: 1/1/2009
  • Pages: 218
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Nurit Stadler is Assistant Professor in the department of sociology and anthropology at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. She is the coeditor of Authority and Power in the Haredi Community.

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Table of Contents

1 Introduction: Redefining Male Piety and Fundamentalism 1

2 Yeshiva Fundamentalism in Israel's Haredi Community 35

3 On the Edge of Transgression: The Study of the Talmud and the "Evil Inclination" 52

4 Challenges to the Fundamentalist Denunciation of Work 74

5 The Idealization of Soldiers' Masculinity 96

6 The Domestication of Masculine Piety 117

7 A Case Study: Terror, ZAKA, and the "Soldiers of Piety" 135

8 Conclusion: A Reconstruction of Fundamentalism and Piety 158

Notes 165

References 173

Index 189

About the Author 197

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