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Religious Identity of Modern Orthodox and Hasidic Jewry in St. Petersburg

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This article describes the results of field research into religious Jewry of St. Petersburg. I analyze biographies of Modern Orthodox and Hasids of Lubavitcher traditions (or the Chabads as they call themselves), who in the aftermath of the Soviet Union’s disintegration in the 1990s chose observance as their self-identity and lifestyle. The paper is aimed at answering the following questions: how do modern Jewish identities differ from one another among the St.Petersburg observant Jewry raised in non-religious families and Soviet schools? How do they coordinate their collective identity with other Jewish communities around the world? To conceptualize my research, I have used Giddens and Beck’s theories of modernity, while my methodology draws on the use of biography and biographical narrative in ethnographic studies. I argue that individual reflexivity gained new importance for both Modern Orthodox Jews and the Chabads in the post-Soviet religious liberation and the arrival of new religious influences. However, whereas Modern Orthodox Jews emphasize the autonomy of their subject position and stress the meaning of individual dogma, the Chabads foreground the primacy of tradition when reflecting on their identity as religious Jews.

Affiliations: 1: Saint Petersburg State University,


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