The New Voluntarism and the Case of Unsynagogued Jews
This essay is based on 30 open-ended interviews with Jews in the Northeast who do not belong to synagogues. Unsynagogued Jews present an interesting challenge to the general sociological tradition which sees ascription and choice as disparate ways of constructing a sense of self. These Jews clearly affirmed their understanding (consistent with the contemporary “new voluntarism” perspective) that religious association and practice are a matter of choice. Nevertheless, they also claimed that they have no choice about being Jewish; it is a matter of ascription. In practicing Judaism in everyday life, they creatively drew upon traditional symbols and practices to enact Jewish rituals in their own creative, syncretic ways. These unsynagogued Jews suggest that studies of contemporary religion should pay attention to practice as well as belief.
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