Society for Linguistic Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
As a convert in a Reconstructionist congregation, my relationship to Judaism has been one of finding a community as opposed to finding a faith. Reconstructionism is founded on a modernist belief of Judaism that eschews a vision of the Torah as “laws” and rather embraces folk traditions and encourages “cherry picking” practices. In this ethnographic and auto-ethnographic paper, I explore a reconstructionist congregational community to understand spirituality in the absence of a requirement of shared faith. Much literature on Jewish spirituality focuses on how Orthodox communities maintain and sustain themselves in secular, modern urban contexts (Fader). Other research on Jewish secularism focuses on how tradition is maintained in the absence of religious belief. This paper explores how spirituality is co-constructed and fostered in a community of mixed heteropraxy and heterodoxy, including atheism. The notion of Jewish community explored here openly allows (but does not force) adherents to spiritually engage through a secular lens; adherents are invited to either actively repurpose spiritual Jewish ritual as secular practice or engage in secularized (faith-free) spirituality. In this shared space, divergent beliefs and practices are integral to how adherents engage in sacred actions and ritualized practice. What does it mean to be a spiritual community when neither a shared belief nor shared practice holds the community together? And how can we use ethnographic theory and method to investigate radical non-sharedness in the context of spiritual community?