When Adar begins devaluation increases: on the construction of Mizrahi religiosity in yeshiva high schools in the 1980s


Source: Journal of Modern Jewish Studies 


Yeshiva boarding high schools were the leading educational institutions of state-religious education in Israel in the 1980s. These were institutions for boys only, which combined holy studies with regular high school diploma (Bagrut) subjects. Given the marginality of Mizrahi religion in the yeshiva high school daily life, this article points out the centrality of Mizrahi religiosity in the Purim events celebrated in theses yeshivot, as expressed in the personal histories of Mizrahi graduates.

Research interviews’ findings indicate that the educational staff used an institutional religious praxis as a tool for the construction of ethno-religious hierarchies. Granting Mizrahi religiosity a prestigious status in the Purim events, that took the form of inversion rites, or carnivals, in which the departure from the social order constitutes its reaffirmation, actually reaffirmed the extant social order according to which Mizrahi religiosity is of lower value while Ashkenazi religiosity is the proper correct religion. At the same time, the article shows how the Mizrahi students used the license given them in Purim to perform subversive rituals that criticized the institutional conduct in yeshivot, while striving to affirm their Mizrahi religiosity.

Updated: Feb. 18, 2021