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Title: Evaluating theories and stereotypes of the attraction of Judaism to females in interfaith marriage
Author: Owen, Janet L.
ISNI:       0000 0004 2739 2200
Awarding Body: University of Aberdeen
Current Institution: University of Aberdeen
Date of Award: 2012
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This thesis examines the accounts of two hundred and seventeen American women who have married Jewish men and have converted to Judaism. I argue that the reasons they converted are different from what the existing literature suggests. The literature maintains that converts are not interested in the religion but convert primarily to placate their spouse or in-laws, to have Jewish children, or to have their marriage accepted by the Jewish community. My research suggests that these female converts chose Judaism because the religion itself appeals to them. In Chapter 1 (Theories of Religious Conversion) I consider theories of religious conversion from the standpoint of psychology, sociology, and anthropology. These social scientific theories tend to focus on conversions to Christianity and to New Religious Movements but not to Judaism. I apply the most suitable of these theories to Judaism. The appeal of Judaism the religion to converts is not at odds with the theories, for the theories are exactly an attempt to explain the appeal of religion. By the appeal of religion I do not mean the desire to experience God. I mean the desire to participate in a community. In Chapter 2 (Interfaith Marriage and Conversion in the American Jewish Community) I examine two issues that divide the Jewish community: interfaith marriage and conversion, neither of which is new to Judaism but both of which have increased in America since the 1960's. Some see conversions as altering the character of Judaism. Others see conversions as a way of ensuring the demographic future of Judaism in America. In Chapter 3 (Religious Upbringing) I consider how the women and their husbands were raised. The majority of the women surveyed had a Christian background. But they had little difficulty in leaving behind their religion to accept Judaism. The majority of their husbands were raised in the Reform movement but were not observant, at least when they met their future wives. In Chapter 4 (The Conversion Process) I consider the reasons the women report that they had chosen to convert. Few were pressured into it. The conversion process was at times difficult because of the negative reactions often encountered from rabbis, in-laws, family, and friends. In Chapter 5 (Religious Beliefs and Practices) I examine the practices the women retained from their Christian backgrounds even after they had converted. I also look at not only which Jewish traditions the women accepted but also the ones they rejected once they had converted. In Chapter 6 (Involvement in the Synagogue and Jewish Community) I consider how the women chose to participate in their synagogue and also at why some women chose not to get involved at all. I also discuss women who took their interest in Judaism further, by becoming a rabbi, cantor, or mohelit. In Chapter 7 (Jewish Identity) I examine how the women think about themselves as converts and Jews. I also explore topics such as their views on Israel and on dealing with anti-Semitism.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Jewish converts from Christianity ; Interfaith marriage ; Marriage ; Jewish women ; Judaism ; Jews