Carrying Joseph's Bones: Reclaiming Jewish Identity and Healing Intergenerational Trauma Through Ritual Connection to Collective Memory

Fershtman, Carolyln (2007) Carrying Joseph's Bones: Reclaiming Jewish Identity and Healing Intergenerational Trauma Through Ritual Connection to Collective Memory. Doctoral thesis, Meridian University.


Download (1MB) | Preview


This qualitative research study explored the experience of reclaiming Jewish identity through engaging Jewish Renewal ritual practices, facilitating reconnection to collective memory. Jewish Renewal is an emergent stream of Judaism based on Jewish mysticism, and influenced by feminism, social justice, and experiential psychology. The study explored: What imaginal structures related to Jewish collective memory emerge through a sustained engagement with Jewish Renewal practices and community? The hypothesis was: Jewish Renewal practice facilitates sustained engagement with collective memory and provides a site for the development of a positive Jewish identity. Current literature on Jewish identity, myth and ritual, Jewish mysticism and Jewish Renewal revealed a research gap regarding the impact of intergenerational transmission of trauma on Jewish identity and the role of Jewish Renewal practices in healing intergenerational trauma and developing a positive Jewish identity. A two-day inquiry with 10 participants, who initially rejected and subsequently reclaimed Jewish identity, explored ways in which anti-Semitic trauma impacted their family’s relationship to Jewish identity, experiences of reclaiming and deepening their vii Jewish identity, and how this re-engagement facilitated healing of anti-Semitic trauma in their lineage. Five key learnings emerged. First, conflicted Jewish identity within the family, often related to unresolved anti-Semitic trauma, is internalized by Jewish children. Second, for the generation coming of age after the Holocaust, a conflicted Jewish identity within the family and cultural milieus, reflecting a rupture in the connection to Jewish collective memory, impedes providing a meaningful initiation of adolescents into Judaism. Third, upon encountering the numinous in Judaism during crisis and ritual moments, the frozen, affect-less Judaism experienced as children was thawed, releasing a powerful torrent of feeling. Fourth, reclamation of Jewish identity is an initiatory journey, requiring one to affectively experience the legacies of suffering and triumphs that were previously not integrated in the family. Fifth, sustained engagement with Jewish collective memory through Jewish Renewal spiritual practices and community provides a site for deepening development of a positive Jewish identity and actualizing of spiritual longings in a Jewish context. The study explored the psychological significance of returning to one’s wisdom tradition following a period of unprecedented historical rupture.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Subjects: Psychology > Critical Theory
Depositing User: Carolyn Fershtman
Date Deposited: 06 Jan 2017 22:35
Last Modified: 06 Jan 2017 22:35

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item