Spirituality Amid Dogma? Some Approaches to Educating for Religious Belief within a State Religious School in Israel

Apr. 03, 2009

Source: Journal of Jewish Education, Volume 75, Issue 2 April 2009 , pages 150 - 172

In the religious school, where young people are brought into religious life and practice, the development of a religious belief system is often neglected.


Religiousness is often instilled as a linear end product, a monolithic corpus of ideas to be singularly transmitted and subsequently owned by youth. However, educational research by Gareth Matthews, Nel Noddings, and others suggests that youth are thirsting for opportunities to grapple, question, and wrestle with profound theological and philosophical issues—a process that leads to a richer religious identity.


This article, the result of three years of ethnographic research at the state religious Levy Junior High School for Girls (all names and identifying details have been altered to protect the informants) in Israel from 1999 to 2002, examines theological, philosophical, and political aspects of religious Zionist education and the tensions between indoctrination and resistance. It explores the shifting religious identities of religious adolescent youth in Israel within the context of a state religious educational institution.


The emerging portrait provides a valuable glimpse into the different ways in which educators approach religious education, and the implications of these approaches in light of the Matthews' and Noddings' insights.


The dynamic between teachers' voices and students' voices sheds light on adolescent religious identity, and offers vital insights for religious education.

Updated: Jun. 08, 2009