Jan. 31st, 2017

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Young Men in Israeli Haredi Yeshiva Education: The Scholars’ Enclave in Unrest. Yohai Hakak. Brill Academic. November 2012.

Tradition. Conservatism. Religious fundamentalism. For some readers, these terms might connote other adjectives, such as “unchanging,” “backward,” or “unitary.” Yohai Hakak’s Young Men in Israeli Haredi Yeshiva Education indicates that discourses within Israeli Lithuanian yeshivas (orthodox religious schools) are anything but static. This study was published in Brill’s Jewish Identities in a Changing World, a series that explores the simultaneously unified and multifarious nature of Jewish identity in the 21st century. In his book, Hakak, a former journalist and senior lecturer at the University of Portsmouth’s School of Health Sciences and Social Work, examines the discursive and constructed nature of the male body in Haredi education.

[...] Central to Hakak’s argument is the idea that yeshiva leaders utilise conceptions of equality and egalitarianism within the religious enclave to both mitigate defection from the community and to establish a wider gap between the enclave and the “outside” world. [..T]hese yeshivas, and the Haredi community more broadly, are in the process of combating a crisis of disintegration and higher yeshiva dropout rates in light of increased competition and a lack of alternative educational or vocational paths. Educational leaders, Hakak suggests, responded to these challenges by emphasising equality within the community in contrast with the outside world, and as detailed in chapter 5, by reframing the historical presentation of revered past scholars. Chapter 6, meanwhile, discusses the ways in which the students themselves deviate from, challenge, and ultimately influence the discourse on the ideal male body. [...]

Hakak describes how Rabbis appropriate certain “western” discourses; “Judaizing” them so that they correspond with existing values and community norms.

Full review here.


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Yisroel Markov

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