CFP: “Off the Derech”: On the Margins of Contemporary Orthodoxy

Schneur  Newfield's picture
Call for Papers
May 31, 2021
New York, United States
Subject Fields: 
Jewish History / Studies, Religious Studies and Theology, Sociology, Literature, Popular Culture Studies

CFP: “Off the Derech”: On the Margins of Contemporary Orthodoxy


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 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 call for papers invites submissions for a guest edited volume of the Journal of Jewish Identities, an interdisciplinary peer-reviewed forum that encourages new theoretical and practical approaches and viewpoints. We welcome scholars from sociology, anthropology, political science, gender studies, law, Jewish studies, literature, music, film, history, and related fields; we welcome submissions that are in and of themselves inter- and intra-disciplinary.


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


  • The economic, social, political, 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.
  • Personal or journalistic narrative accompanied by a disciplinary focus.


Full papers are due by May 31, 2021. Contributors will be notified of acceptances and revisions by the end of October 2021. All submissions should be accompanied by a brief biography (no more than 300 words) that includes your institutional affiliation, field, research interests, and major past publications. Please submit essays and bios as a single .pdf document to Glenn Dynner (; Jessica Lang (; Zalman Newfield (; and Joshua Shanes ( by May 31, 2021.