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Oren Golan

Re-Constructing Religious Boundaries Online : The Emergence of the Denominational Jewish Internet

Le Temps des médias n°17, Automne 2011.

In the past decade, numerous segregated communities have increasingly joined the Internet not only as individuals, but as groups and communities creating ‘denominational websites’that cater to a specific religious variant in their creed, services offered, representation and drawing upon offline signs, symbols and linguistic choices of the targeted audience. In light of these developments I ask how does the Internet influence social boundaries within the Jewish world and what role does it play for modifying these religious denominations’frontiers ? Through an extensive case study analysis that included web analysis and ethnographic observations on of three websites Bhol.co.il, Chabad.org and myjewishlearning.com and in-depth interviews with 24 webmasters between 2009 and 2010 in Israel and the US. Findings show how the Internet functions as a medium for re-structuring denominational affiliation in accord with Internet dynamics and webmasters’agency, rather than reinforcing historical denominational classifications. ‘Haredi’websites reinforce a lumped identity (rather than that of Belz, Litvak etc), while some denominations (i.e. Chabad, Zionist Religious) gain distinct online identities. These rearrangements of categories both mirror and affect the popular representation and dialogue on Jewish identities, as well as bear potential for reshaping sources of religious authority and identity practices of Jews in the US, Israel and beyond. DrapeauFrancais

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