‘Retaining the Tradition – but with an Open Mind’ – Change and Choice in Jewish Musical Practices

Change and Choice in Jewish Musical Practices





This article focuses on religion and change in relation to music. Its starting point is the argument that music plays a central role as a driving force for religious change, as has recently been suggested by several researchers of religion. Music is seen to comprise elements that are central to contemporary religiosity in general: participation, embodiment, experience, emotions, and creativity. This article approaches the discussion from a Jewish point of view, connecting the theoretical perspective to an ethnographic case study conducted among progressive Jews in London with special focus on music, religious practice, and change.
   The article outlines the ongoing discussion on religion and change by focusing on features of individualism, personal choice, and processes of bricolage, critically assessing them from an inclusive point of view, focusing on individuals as simultaneously both personal and socially as well as culturally embedded agents. The analysis highlights a visible trend among the interviewees of wanting to combine a radically liberal theology with an increasingly traditional practice. In these accounts musical practices play a pivotal yet ambiguous role as instigators and insignia of religious change. As a conclusion, insights into more ‘sonically aware religious studies’ are suggested.

Author Biography

Ruth Illman, The Donner Institute

Dr. Ruth Illman is Director of the Donner Institute for Research in Religious and Cultural History in Åbo/Turku, Finland and a docent of comparative religion at Åbo Akademi University. Her main research interests includes interreligious dialogue, cultural encounters, religion and art as well as contemporary Judaism.




How to Cite

Illman, R. (2017). ‘Retaining the Tradition – but with an Open Mind’ – Change and Choice in Jewish Musical Practices: Change and Choice in Jewish Musical Practices. Temenos - Nordic Journal of Comparative Religion, 53(2), 197–218. https://doi.org/10.33356/temenos.60982