You can't pick your family: Celebrating Israeli familism around the Seder table

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Abstract

Familismis a model of a social organization that assigns the family an important role in individual and collective identity. This article proposes a historical analysis and interpretation of the Seder celebrations of Jewish Israelis, in order to explore what is unique about Israeli familism-that it imagines the entire nation as an extended family. This ritual continues to be widely practiced today by Jews of every sector-secular, traditional, and religious. As a result, it has a significant presence in Israeli popular culture. The focus is on two questions: (1) who celebrates? That is, what forum convenes around the table? (2) How is it celebrated? That is, what ritual is conducted during the festive gathering? The historical and ethnographic analysis shows that over the course of the twentieth century, the extended family became the preferred forum for celebration, and that the conformist reading of the Haggadah and the other parts of the ceremony continue on the whole to follow the Orthodox rules, even in secular families. This mode of celebration is analyzed here as an expression of the political image of the entire Jewish people as one large extended family and as a demonstration of the extensive use of Jewish familism in the construction of Jewish identity in Israel today.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)239-260
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Family History
Volume39
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 2014

Keywords

  • Extended family
  • Familism
  • Festivals
  • Israel
  • Nationalism
  • Rituals

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