Converts, Returnees, and Adherents: New Ways of Joining the Jewish People

Years of Activity: 2013 - 2014

Research Status:

Not Active
Participants: 

Yaakov Ariel, Haim Avni, Regev Ben-David, Eli Ben-Rafael, Avi Beker, Eliyahu Birenboim, Velvl (Vladimir) Chernin, Eric Cohen, Susanne Cohen-Weisz, Sergio DellaPergola, David Efrati, Gideon Elazar, Ilan Ezrachi, Avraham Gross, Yair Halevy, Arie Haskin, Gabriel Horenczyk, Ayala Keisar-Shugerman, Zeev Khanin, Meir Kraus, Eli Lederhendler, Dov Maimon, Dalia Marx, Dina Mastai-von Schwarze, Larissa Remennick, Dennis Scharvit, Naama SerI-Levi, Gabriel Sheffer, Eduardo Torres, Reuven Tradburks

The modern age has influenced the Jewish people in two opposing directions: disaffiliation and affiliation. The widespread phenomenon of disaffiliation, whether voluntary or involuntary, has been around since ancient times, but that of affiliation has become more intense since the second half of the twentieth century.
Various factors have contributed to the increased number of persons interested in joining the Jewish collective. They range from the elimination of national laws that forbade citizens from converting to Judaism to the change in the image of the Jews in Western society, a change that has led to their being seen as eligible partners for social relations and marriage.
The phenomenon of affiliation takes place among diverse groups: recent immigrants to Israel who are not Jewish but want to be part of Jewish society in Israel; members of mixed families who join Jewish congregations in the Diaspora; the descendants of conversos and tribes with a Jewish tradition who want to return to their Jewish roots; and, of course, individuals who choose conversion to Judaism for social and spiritual motives.
Jewish communities, too, have changed and added new ways for joining them. The traditional conversion process has been supplemented by more diverse forms of inclusion, both in Israel (the Law of Return( and in Diaspora communities.
The research group studies the nature of these groups and analyzes the meaning of phenomena that are linked to affiliation with the Jewish people in recent decades.
The following are among the questions that are addressed:
• Who are the converts, joiners, and returnees?
• What are the processes for receiving them and including them in the Jewish
community?
• What role do society and the state play in this process?
• How do these processes affect the boundaries of the Jewish collective?