Publication Date

April 2018

Advisor(s)

Michael Roth

Major

College of Social Studies

Language

English (United States)

Abstract

Religion in Israel is polarized and the American Jewish community, which prides itself on liberal religious practice, feels increasingly isolated from Jews in Israel. This thesis is an attempt to examine the differences between Israel?s Masorti (religious but not Orthodox) Jews and America?s Conservative and Reform Jews. It looks specifically at observance of kashrut (Jewish dietary laws) to determine whether differences in observance are situational or instead manifest an ideological divide. Because non-Orthodox kashrut observers often selectively observe elements of the halachah (Jewish law), this thesis looks historically at the sources and evolution of dietary laws to outline which elements of the law non-Orthodox observes examine most critically, and to evaluate the degree to which non-Orthodox observance is either continuous or discontinuous with the past. It argues that immigrants to Israel and to the United States were, for the most part, not ideologically different from one another, and it contends that the comparatively greater number of kashrut observers in Israel, and their heightened ?level? of observance, reflect situational rather than ideological differences. It argues that although the meaning associated with observance is sometimes different in the United States than in Israel, both Americans and Israelis keep kosher to affirm a global and transcendent Jewish identity. It finds that non-Orthodox kashrut observance in both countries is adaptive. It posits that the adaptability of observance reflects its importance to observers, and its potential for maintaining global Jewish continuity. Although it finds that kashrut observance coincides with other ritual practices, it contends that ritual observance does not necessarily connote belief in God.

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