Researching vernacular Judaism: reflections on theory and method

  • Ruth Illman The Donner Institute
Keywords: vernacular religion, Judaism in Finland, ethnography


This article presents the ethnographically driven multi-method research perspective of vernacular religion and analyses its potential to contribute to the theoretical advancement of Jewish studies. The ongoing discussion on religion and change within the study of religions in gen­eral and Jewish studies in particular is outlined and structured around three ‘turns’ identified in the re­search on vernacular religiosity. To exemplify these theoretical and methodological considerations, a recently initiated research project focusing on vernacular Judaism in Finland is presented. This project seeks to examine central ideas of boundaries as they are negotiated and interpreted among Finnish Jewry, to compare the emerging patterns with Nordic counterparts and thus contribute to a more nuanced perception of Jewish identities in these contexts. The article concludes with a discussion on the advances of such an approach, pointing to the relative novelty of research into vernacular religion within Jewish studies and the exceptionality of the Finnish Jewish context.

How to Cite
Illman, R. (2019). Researching vernacular Judaism: reflections on theory and method. Nordisk Judaistik/Scandinavian Jewish Studies, 30(1), 91-108.