Chabad on Ice: Jewish encounters with fundamentalism in Finland

Mercédesz Czimbalmos*, Riikka Tuori

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

The article examines the Finnish branch of Chabad Lubavitch as a fundamentalist and charismatic movement that differs from other branches of ultra-Orthodox Judaism in its approaches to outreach to non-observant Jews. Whilst introducing the history of Chabad Lubavitch in Finland and drawing on historical and archival sources, the authors locate the movement in a contemporary context and draw on 101 semi-structured qualitative interviews of members of the Finnish Jewish communities, who either directly or indirectly have been in contact with representatives of Chabad Finland. The material is examined through the theoretical concept of ‘vicarious religion’. As the results of the article show, whilst Chabad very much adheres to certain fundamentalist approaches in Jewish religious practice, in Finland they follow a somewhat different approach. They strongly rely on people’s sense of Jewish identification and Jewish identity. Individuals in the community ‘consume’ Chabad’s activities vicariously, ‘belong without believing’ or ‘believe in belonging’ but do not feel the need to apply stricter religious observance. Whilst many of them are critical of Chabad and their activities, they do acknowledge that Chabad fills the ‘gaps’ in and outside the Jewish Community of Helsinki, predominantly by creating new activities for some of its members.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)38-58
JournalApproaching Religion
Volume12
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 14 Jun 2022
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Keywords

  • Chabad Lubavitch
  • Jewish studies
  • vicarious religion
  • Finnish Jewry
  • fundamentalism

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