‘Retaining the Tradition – but with an Open Mind’: Change and Choice in Jewish Musical Practices

A1 Journal article (refereed)

Internal Authors/Editors

Publication Details

List of Authors: Ruth Illman
Publication year: 2017
Journal: Temenos
Volume number: 53
Issue number: 2
Start page: 197
End page: 218
eISSN: 2342-7256


This article focuses on religion
and change in relation to music. Its starting point is the argument that music
plays a central role as a driving force for religious change, as has recently
been suggested by several researchers of religion. Music is seen to comprise
elements that are central to contemporary religiosity in general: participation,
embodiment, experience, emotions, and creativity. This article approaches the
discussion from a Jewish point of view, connecting the theoretical perspective
to an ethnographic case study conducted among progressive Jews in London with
special focus on music, religious practice, and change.

The article outlines the ongoing discussion on
religion and change by focusing on features of individualism, personal choice,
and processes of bricolage, critically assessing them from an inclusive point
of view, focusing on individuals as simultaneously both personal and socially as
well as culturally embedded agents. The analysis highlights a visible trend
among the interviewees of wanting to combine a radically liberal theology with
an increasingly traditional practice. In these accounts musical practices play
a pivotal yet ambiguous role as instigators and insignia of religious change.
As a conclusion, insights into more ‘sonically aware religious studies’ are


Ethnography, Jewish music, Progressive Judaism, religious change


Last updated on 2019-16-11 at 04:26