Multiplicity of Identity Expressed in Jewish Educational Settings: The Case of Summer Camps in the US


Source: International Journal of Jewish Education Research (IJJER), 2013 (5-6),177 - 202 


The current article explores multiple expressions of Jewish identity as expressed in educational settings affiliated with different denominations. Further, it looks at expressions of identity among youth whose personal religious affiliation corresponds with the setting’s organizational identity and those whose personal identity differs.


The tool for examining this is a scale of symbols which was developed in order to explore the multi-faceted nature of Jewish identity. The set of symbols is used as a means for comparing between sub-populations of American Jewish youth. Participants (N=731) in Jewish summer camps affiliated with the Orthodox, Conservative and Reform denominations variously emphasized different symbols, expressing distinctive ‘flavors’ of Jewish-American identity.


It was found that each camp included a significant minority of participants whose self-defined denominational affiliation differs from that of the camp. Significantly, there are differences in Jewish identity, as expressed through the symbols, between youth whose self-defined affiliation corresponds with that of the camp (i.e. Orthodox youth at an Orthodox camp) and those whose personal definition differs from their camp's affiliation (i.e. Conservative youth at an Orthodox camp).


Pedagogical and institutional implications of the multiplicity of Jewish identities expressed in educational settings, and especially the experience of individuals whose identity differs from that of the setting, are explored.

Updated: Mar. 19, 2014