Ultra-Orthodox Lesbian Women in Israel: Alternative Family Structures as a Bridge between Religious and Sexual Identities

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The Jewish ultra-Orthodox community enforces strict rules concerning its members’ way of life and demands that their identities be consistent with that of this conservative community. However, such congruence does not exist for ultra-Orthodox women who identify as lesbians. Drawing on social representation theory, this study examines the unique family structures that lesbian ultra-Orthodox women in Israel have adopted to accommodate their conflicting identities. The study employed a qualitative multiple case study design, conducting in-depth interviews with seven ultra-Orthodox lesbian women, and adopted a phenomenological approach to learn about their lived experience. The women had all married young in arranged marriages and all had children. Four of them were still married, while the other three were divorced. In all cases, however, their lesbian identity was kept hidden. The findings reveal the unique family structures these women created that allowed them to maintain their religious way of life on the surface, while remaining committed to their sexual identity in secret. The study extends the social representation theory and promotes an understanding of the multifaceted identity of ultra-Orthodox lesbian women. The findings can aid in designing interventions that can help such women cope with the secret aspects of their life.

Original languageEnglish
Article number7575
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number13
StatePublished - 21 Jun 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


  • family structures
  • identity
  • lesbian women
  • social representation theory
  • ultra-Orthodox community


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