“Casting Our Sins Away”: A Comparative Analysis of Queer Jewish Communities in Israel and in the US

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Abstract

Every year, diverse Jewish communities around the world observe Tashlich (casting off), a customary atonement ritual performed the day after Rosh Hashanah. This performative ritual is conducted next to a body of water to symbolize atonement and purification of one’s sins. Based on multi-sited ethnographic fieldwork in two egalitarian Jewish congregations in Tel Aviv and in New York City, I show how Tashlich performance is constructed as a political act to empower gender and sexual identities and experiences, as well as the socio-political positionality of LGBTQ Jews in various sites. By including new blessings, the blowing of the shofar by gay female participants, and by conducting the ritual in historical and contemporary queer urban spaces, the rabbis and congregants created new interpretations of the traditional customs. They exposed their feelings toward themselves, their community, and its visibility and presence in the city. The fact that the ritual is conducted in an open urban public space creates not only differing meanings and perceptions than from the synagogue, but also exposes queer politics in the context of national and religious identities. Furthermore, this comparative analysis illuminates tensions and trajectories of Jewishness and queerness in Israel and in the US, and sheds light on postmodern tendencies in contemporary urban religious communities as a result of the inclusion of the LGBTQ community.

Original languageEnglish
Article number845
JournalReligions
Volume13
Issue number9
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 2022

Keywords

  • Jewish holidays
  • LGBTQ
  • New York
  • Queer
  • Tashlich
  • Tel Aviv
  • ethnography
  • gender

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