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Voices of Outreach: The Construction of Identity and Maintenance of Social Ties Among Chabad-Lubavitch Emissaries

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Fundamentalists typically avoid influences from the outside world and form intense social bonds with members of their own group. Yet, active fundamentalists must create relationships with the objects of their missionary action, the Other. In this article I address the connections between the cultural practice of missionary work and the formation and maintenance of social ties among ultra-Orthodox Jewish missionaries belonging to the fundamentalist Hasidic sect Chabad-Lubavitch. These missionaries attempt to bring Jews to the beliefs and practices of Chabad by hosting Jews at Sabbath meals. This missionary act is an utterance that “speaks” with multiple voices, indexing the missionaries as both friendly members of their local Jewish community and ideal Lubavitchers. Through these meals, the missionaries engage not only the local Jews but also other Lubavitchers in dialogue, constructing a community that transcends face-to-face interaction.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-5906.2009.01430.x

Affiliations: Department of Comparative Human Development University of Chicago

Publication date: March 1, 2009

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