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Jews in the Age of Authenticity

Jewish Spiritual Renewal in Israel


Rachel Werczberger

In this book, Rachel Werczberger takes stock of the Jewish New Age spirituality scene in Israel at the turn of the millennium. Led by highly charismatic rabbis, the Hamakom and Bayit Chadash communities attempted to bring about a Jewish spiritual renewal by integrating Jewish tradition – especially Kabbalah and Hasidism – with New Age spirituality. Having spent over two years in field research, Werczberger presents a comprehensive ethnographic account of these two groups, examining their rise and fall after only six years of activity. At the core of their aspiration for Jewish spiritual renewal, claims Werczberger, was the quest for authenticity. She investigates the ways in which the language of authenticity was embraced by the members of the communities in their construction of a new spiritual Jewish identity, their re-invention of Jewish rituals, and their failed attempt at constructing community. She concludes that all these elements point to the dual form of politics of authenticity and identity with which the Israeli Jewish New Age is involved.


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Chapter 1: New Age Judaism in Israel and the Quest for Authenticity


· 1 · new age judaism in israel and the quest for authenticity Judaism is sick. It is worth saying this without mincing words. And I am not moti- vated by some kind of self-hatred. On the contrary—it is because of my great love for the Torah that I am saying this. Judaism lies before (or within) us in critical condition, and no one will invent a cure for it except for us, our very own selves, for if we do not [find a remedy] it will die in our midst. —Ohad Ezrahi (“Le-Ra'pe et Ha-Yahadut,” Haim Aherim 97 2004, p. 32) Healing Judaism In 1999, Rabbi Ohad Ezrahi the founder and leader of the Hamakom com- munity, published an article in De’ot (a journal identified with the liberal, left-wing sector of Israeli religious-Zionism). The piece, titled “Al Da’at Hamakom” (lit. With the Approval of God), a title that alludes both to the name of his envisioned community and to the opening words of the most important prayers of Yom Kippur: Kol Nidre, is dedicated to his vision of his community. The article begins with a description of Ezrahi’s personal search for Jewish spirituality: For quite a few years I have been wandering about in the Torah world seeking that which my soul loveth. I started my quest far away—in the wilderness, in the wisdom 22 jews in the age of authenticity of the East, and without any connection, even minimal, to Judaism. The Indian Don Juan, Carlos Castaneda’s guide,...

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