The 18th World Congress of Jewish Studies

What Makes Jewish Meditation Jewish? Hybridity, Neo Traditionalism and Cultural Angst in Today’s Jewish Meditation Scape

Over the last three decades, “Jewish meditation” has become a growing phenomenon on the global Jewish religious scene. While for millennia, contemplative techniques were reserved to an elite of closed kabbalistic and Chassidic circles, today, various practices labeled “Jewish meditation” are nowadays being taught in synagogues, Jewish Community Centers, Jewish spirituality organizations and even Jewish day schools in the Americas, Australia, England, France, Germany, and Israel.

What is making Jewish meditation mainstream? Who are its actors, what are its practices, and what discourses legitimize them?

Through a multisite ethnographic fieldwork between America, Western Europe and Israel conducted over the past ten years, this paper analyzes the current emergence of a global Jewish meditationscape. Drawing from the conclusions of a combination of participant observation and discourse analysis of interviews with actors and practitioners of the field, I highlight that beyond the diversity of the new Jewish meditationscape, a general discourse seems to emerge between two opposite trends, hybrid and neo traditionalist, lies a similar effort of claiming Jewish roots.

I suggest that this testifies of a form of cultural angst in the light of the growing popularity of mindfulness in the West and more broadly of cultural globalization.