Jewish Identity: Subjective Declarations Or Objective Life Styles

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Barry Glassner


Minority & ethnic groups, Sociology

Subject Categories

Race and Ethnicity


The objective of this research is to examine how individuals differentially perceive their Jewish identity, how they talk about it, and how these perceptions and ways of speaking about Jewish identity translate into certain practices. It has been suggested (Rosen, 1969) that Jewish identity may be expressed either as referential or categorical identity. The approach adopted in this study is to qualitatively analyze the relationship between what Jews say about their religious identity and what they indicate they engage in as practice. In this study, I have considered the nature of Jewish identity as forms either of "categorical" or "referential" self-identification. More specifically, this research examines how identification with a denominational group may be associated with how one socially locates him/herself in the Jewish community, and how this self-identification fits with how he/she locates him/herself in society. In other words, how denominational identification relates to social integration.

The data employed in this research are obtained from a stratified random sample of 88 Jewish individuals, representing 88 different Jewish families.

The sample is drawn from a Central New York city which is consistently listed among the top few Northeastern cities for marketing and social science research because of its "mean demographics" for such variables as population size, ethnic composition, and age and income distributions. Estimates of the size of the Jewish population of this city range from 8,000 to 12,000.

This sample was originally drawn as part of a three-year study investigating drinking patterns in the Jewish community. In addition to questions regarding this primary focus, there were also included a number of questions concerning the major focus of this study, namely; Jewish identity.

The data were analyzed through a series of standard content analysis techniques and four major coding frames. These coding frames include: (1) identification of subjects' declared affiliations of self-ascription in order to establish, (a) with which subjective declarations of denominational affiliations Jews identify, and (b) how these self-ascriptions match conventional affiliational categories; (2) an attempt to identify any consensual norms of expected behaviors for members of Orthodox, Conservative, Reform and Nonpracticing affiliational groups; (3) an examination of certain religious and ethnic practices with regard to differential involvement by members of the various affiliational groups; and (4) an investigation of how subjects define themselves, and other Jews, as members of one or another of the affiliational categories. . . . (Author's abstract exceeds stipulated maximum length. Discontinued here with permission of author.) UMI


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