On the Margins of Contemporary Jewish Orthodoxies Symposium

Schneur  Newfield's picture
Call for Papers
October 29, 2020
New York, United States
Subject Fields: 
Jewish History / Studies, Anthropology, Literature, Sociology

CFP: On the Margins of Contemporary Jewish Orthodoxies Symposium


Baruch College, CUNY, New York, October 29, 2020


Social scientific, cultural, historical, and humanistic scholarship on post-war Orthodox communities has largely focused on those who remain in these communities, with a particular emphasis on explaining how these communities manage to maintain themselves and their symbolic representations. In the past two decades, scholars and artists have begun to focus attention on those who struggle within or exit these communities (a process commonly referred to within Orthodox communities to as going “off the derech,” or off the path). Such scholars have started to investigate why people leave or choose to stay, the religious positions they adopt, their post-exit relations with family and community; and the art, literature, and cultural expressions produced by and about them.


This day-long symposium will for the first time bring together scholars from diverse academic disciplines to share and deepen their current research projects. We welcome scholars from sociology, anthropology, gender studies, law, Jewish studies, literature, music, film, history, and related fields.


This symposium is being co-sponsored and organized by: Glenn Dynner (Sarah Lawrence); Jessica Lang (Baruch, CUNY); Zalman Newfield (BMCC, CUNY); Joshua Shanes (College of Charleston). We will also be guest editing a volume of the Journal of Jewish Identities on this topic. Symposium applicants and participants are welcome to submit papers for this special issue; the deadline for papers is December 31, 2020.


Possible topics include (but are not limited to) the following:

  • The economic, social, and religious innovations occurring within Orthodox communities.
  • The motivation for leaving and the narratives developed to make sense of such departures.
  • The relationship among exiters and their families, friends, and former communities.
  • The relationship of exiters to organized religion and religious rituals and symbols.
  • The literature, music, and film produced by and about this population.
  • Formal and informal approaches to language, translation, and representation in Orthodox exiter narratives.
  • The role and influence of technology as a point of access and a barrier to Orthodox exiters.
  • Gender, feminism, and masculinity studies in relation to the Orthodox exiter community.
  • Historical implications and resonances of Orthodox exiter experiences.
  • People who are leading double lives or in some way openly or secretly challenging religious communal practices, culture, or politics.

The symposium may have funds to defray some costs associated with travel and accommodations. Participants are also encouraged to seek funds from their home departments and professional organizations.


Paper proposals should include a title, an abstract (250 words), and contact information. Please add a brief statement (50-100 words) that includes your institutional affiliation, field, and research interests. Please submit proposals as a single .pdf document to Glenn Dynner (gdynner@sarahlawrence.edu); Jessica Lang (Jessica.Lang@baruch.cuny.edu); Zalman Newfield (SNewfield@bmcc.cuny.edu); and Joshua Shanes (shanesj@cofc.edu) by June 15, 2020. Invited participants will be notified of their acceptance by the end of June 2020.