Chapter

Jewish Identity Writ Small: <i>The Everyday Experience of</i> Baalot Teshuvah

Louise E. Tallen

in Diasporas and Exiles

Published by University of California Press

Published in print October 2002 | ISBN: 9780520228641
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520926899 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1525/california/9780520228641.003.0011
Jewish Identity Writ Small: The Everyday Experience of Baalot Teshuvah

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This chapter focuses on formerly secular Jewish women who have become Orthodox Jews, baalot teshuvah, through the outreach efforts of Chabad Lubavitch Hasidism. Despite the emphasis in our culture on self-actualization and freedom of choice, Orthodoxy—even Chabad-style Orthodoxy, which involves great sacrifices in personal autonomy—is staging something of a return. For increasing numbers of Jews, Jewishness has become a focal element of their identity. The chapter explores identity formation, a process that usually takes place below the level of consciousness. It looks at people who undergo radical life changes, since in such cases the process of identity formation and negotiation becomes conscious, as it also does for those living in cultural margins. The baalot teshuvah typically experienced a sense of “not fitting in” in their earlier lives. They report a sense of betrayal and/or disillusionment before finding their new Orthodox lifestyle. For these people, embracing Chabad-style Orthodoxy made the difference; they found a home and the beginnings of a meaningful identity.

Keywords: Jewish women; Jewish identity; Orthodox Jews; identity formation; Chabad Lubavitch Hasidism

Chapter.  8428 words. 

Subjects: Judaism and Jewish Studies

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