Chapter

Jewish Ancestry and the Social Construction of Ethnic Identity

Janet Liebman Jacobs

in Hidden Heritage

Published by University of California Press

Published in print September 2002 | ISBN: 9780520233461
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520936614 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1525/california/9780520233461.003.0007
Jewish Ancestry and the Social Construction of Ethnic Identity

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This chapter presents a discussion on self-transformation of social identity in crypto-Jewish descendants, and the construction of Jewish ethnicity from the standpoint of ethnic and ancestral connection. Through the recovery of Sephardic ancestry, crypto-Jewish descendants embrace not only an ancestral spiritual tradition but also a cultural past steeped in the unique and complex history of the Jewish people. The integration of Jewish ethnicity thus involves identification with shared history, values, and spirituality that together form the emerging Jewish self. Among the descendants, the adoption of a Jewish ethnic identity is tied to a longing for community that has developed in response to social alienation and the growing importance of ethnic identity in the contemporary culture of the United States. The chapter begins with a discussion of ethnic revivalism, and examines the social construction of ethnicity from the perspective of stigmatized identities and the creation of ethnic alliances among modern descendants.

Keywords: crypto-Jewish descendents; Jewish ancestry; social identity; ethnic identity; Sephardic ancestry; ethnic revivalism; United States

Chapter.  10471 words. 

Subjects: Judaism and Jewish Studies

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