Reference : When a Kippah Represents All Jews: Navigating Shifting Signs from Talmud Torah to Sch...
Scientific congresses, symposiums and conference proceedings : Unpublished conference
Social & behavioral sciences, psychology : Anthropology
When a Kippah Represents All Jews: Navigating Shifting Signs from Talmud Torah to School in Luxembourg
Badder, Anastasia mailto [University of Luxembourg > Faculty of Humanities, Education and Social Sciences (FHSE) > Department of Humanities (DHUM) >]
Association for Jewish Studies 53rd Annual Conference
from 19-12-2021 to 21-12-2021
[en] secularism ; religion ; semiotic ideology
[en] Across the contexts of the lives of Luxembourg's Liberal Talmud Torah students, secularism and mobility are highly valued and understood to be key characteristics of modern living. Talmud Torah students feel they easily meet these criteria – they are multilingual, they currently lead and anticipate highly mobile lives, they see themselves as cosmopolitan and their approach to Jewish life as flexible, and, equally importantly, they look, dress, and comport themselves "like everyone else", all of which are understood to facilitate movement (in the sense of movement across geographic, economic, social, and religious/secular spheres) and belonging in the modern world. The students directly contrast their ways of being with those of more observant Jews. Identifiable by their rootedness, linguistic stringency, and, especially, their ways of dressing (e.g. wearing a kippah in public), the embodied practices and visibility of observant Jews are perceived to be impediments to participation and success in the secular realm. For Talmud Torah students, the public kippah in particular indexes a religious individual and a "backwards" and undesirable life. However, when Jewishness appears in their school classrooms, it is usually visually represented by orthodox-presenting men – often a man in a white shirt and black kippah. In the school classroom, these men and their kippot are framed as representing all Jews, understood as a homogenous group of adherents to the religion Judaism. For many Talmud Torah students, their first encounter with this new meaning of the kippah, visualization and associated conceptualization of Jewishness is jarring – they suddenly find themselves on the 'wrong' side of the religious/secular divide and grouped together with those from whom they could not feel more distant. Based on 31 months of ethnographic fieldwork with Luxembourg's Liberal Jewish community, this paper will explore how the kippah is remediated from the Talmud Torah to the school classroom, how students grapple with this uncomfortable process, and some of its implications.

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