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Characters in Search of a Script: The Exit Narratives of Formerly Ultra-Orthodox Jews

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We use a case study of individuals who leave ultra-Orthodox Judaism to illustrate that essential characteristics of the institutions they leave, such as their degree of encapsulation, shape both processes and narratives of identity change. Through examining the narratives of these exiters and comparing them to the literature on conversion into strict religious groups, we find that there is more institutional support for conversion into a group than for disaffiliating from a group. In conversion, recruits are provided with institutional scripts that shape their narratives; those who leave strict religious communities have no parallel ready-made accounts. Those that leave ultra-Orthodoxy state that they did not have a language to guide them in their transition into secular society. Nevertheless, despite their presentation of themselves as “scriptless” they also present themselves as brave individuals who are proud of their ability to leave a community that had encompassed all aspects of life.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Lynn Davidman, Program in Judaic Studies, Box 1826, 163 George St., Brown University, Providence, RI 02912., Email: [email protected] 2: Arthur L. Greil, Division of Social Sciences, Alfred University, One Saxon Dr., Alfred, NY., Email: [email protected]

Publication date: 01 June 2007

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