Jewish Folklore and Ethnology


The inspiration for and significance of field-based Jewish folklore and ethnology studies as a distinct branch of learning devoted to the understanding of tradition in relation to diasporic Jewish studies and folkloristics is traced back to the Talmudic directive to “Go out and see what the people do.” The shapers of the field include S. An-Ski, Max Grunwald, Yoysef-Yehude Lerner, and Dov Noy along with theoretical influences of Franz Boas and Erving Goffman heralding a shift from textual sources to analyses of practice and performance. The characteristic definition, content, method, and theory of Jewish folklore and ethnological studies since the nineteenth century are analyzed as growing out of a concern for change and continuity to Jewish community and identity amid the force of modernization. Future trajectories of research and goals for the field are considered in the digital age in which new definitions of community and culture are emerging.