Israeli Folk Dance Creating Social Change in the Jewish Community
Keywords:Judaism, Israel, dance, women, activism
AbstractWhen voices are silenced, the body can often be the most powerful instrument for social change and activism, or the expression of personal feelings and commitments. This article describes how the development of Israeli folk dance changed the emerging Jewish society in Israel, in three ways. First, Israeli folk dance changed and countered negative perceptions of the Jewish body throughout Europe. Second, this folk dance changed Jewish society’s treatment of women in ritual leadership. And third, Israeli folk dance changed a dispersed Jewish people into a community that works, dances, and worships hand-in-hand. Implicit Religion invites us to look at elements of ordinary life for things that bear some resemblance to what we call religion, so that we might better understand these seemingly secular elements of life if we approach them through the lens of religion. The founder of Israeli folk dance, Gurit Kadman, embodied her activism by giving the Jewish community a reason to be proud of their bodies and their faith, by empowering women to assume ritual leadership responsibilities, and by creating a living, breathing community in the midst of Holocaust and Diaspora. Gurit Kadman was an activist whose folk dances changed society. Her seemingly secular work—dance—had a profoundly religious impact on Jewish society.
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