Source: International Journal of Jewish Education Research (IJJER), 2013 (5-6), 91-118
This paper addresses the relation between various elements of Jewish religious identity, in the sense of the narratives Jews create about their religiosity, and stances they hold towards those whom they consider “others”. These stances range from prejudice, via tolerance, to pluralism. The first part of the paper lays the theoretical foundations for the claim that multiple identities might foster open-mindedness among religious individuals. This is done first by describing the empirical link between prejudice and religious identity and reflecting on some of its causes; then by questioning the ubiquity of that link by demonstrating the connection between openness to others and religiosity in other studies, and offering some explanations for the contextual differences between the two sets of findings. One variable which is highlighted is the complex and multiple personal identity structure of certain believers and religious communities. Possible reasons for the mediating role of complex identity on the religion-pluralism link are offered.
The second part of the paper demonstrates this claim through narrative excerpts taken from two qualitative studies of religious Jews: Israeli religious psychoanalytic therapists managing their religious and professional identities, and California Bay Area Jews who narrate their religious life-story and discuss the way they relate to outgroups. The studies identify two strategies frequently used by participants to uphold a committed Jewish religious identity and simultaneously adhere to a pluralistic world-view. I term these strategies “Principled cognitive pluralism” and “Transformative identity narratives." I explain how each strategy supports the mutual enhancement of Jewish religious identity and pluralistic thought, and discuss some of the educational implications of these findings.