Collective Trauma, Identity, and Healing: An Ethnography of Neo-Hasidic Jews in English-Speaking Jerusalem, Naomi Shifrin, UG '22 (3968076)
Collective trauma emerged as a focus of scholarly inquiry with the First World War. Today, sociologists understand that collective trauma can give rise to the construction of meaning and identity from suffering. Hasidism, the 18th century Jewish spiritual revival movement, and its early 20th century outgrowth, Neo-Hasidism, both formed as responses to collective Jewish trauma and focus on theologies of healing. Given its newness and rapidly evolving nature, Neo-Hasidism has not yet been investigated in academic literature. Employing ethnographic observation and semi- structured in-depth interviews with 30 participants, this thesis investigates the relationship between collective trauma, healing, and Jewish identity in the Anglo-born Neo-Hasidic community of Jerusalem today. I argue that Anglo-born Neo-Hasidic Jews in Jerusalem understand their Jewish identities in a framework of trauma and healing. My findings then reveal that participants seek healing through shared beliefs: in collective Jewish trauma, relational healing, and God, and shared rites: communal experiences, contemplative practices, and plant and Earth medicine. My data reveal a new social identity, which I name Geulah Hasidism, redemptive Hasidism. Geulah Hasidism’s central goal is healing. Like its predecessors, Hasidism and Neo-Hasidism, I argue that Geulah Hasidism formed as a way to construct meaning and identity from the collective trauma of the Jewish people.