Daughters of The Vale of Tears: Ethnographic Approach with Socio-Historical and Religious Emphasis to Family Welfare in the Messianic Jewish Movement in Ukraine

Tuula-Hannele Ikonen


This ethnographic approach with socio-historical and religious emphasis focuses on the Mission view of Messianic Jewish women in Ukraine circa 2000. The approach highlights especially the meaning of socio-historical and religious factors in the emergence of the Mission view of Messianic Jewish women. Ukraine, the location of this study case, is an ex-Soviet country of about 48 million citizens with 100 ethnic nationalities. Members of the Jewish faith form one of those ethnic groups. Following the Russian revolution in 1989 and then the establishing of an independent Ukraine in 1991, the country descended into economic disaster with many consequent social problems. Women, children and families were the most vulnerable groups in society and it was within these, and additionally in answer to an emotional vacuum and failure of female activism that an interest and commitment to Religion returned after about 70 years exile. Messianic Judaism emerged in Ukraine during the late 1980s. The purpose of this study is to describe the content of the Mission view: family welfare. This study addresses the following questions concerning the Messianic Jewish Movement: 1) What is the Mission view of Messianic Jewish women? 2) Why and how did it emerge? 3) How do women produce family welfare according to this Mission view? 4) What are the ideal types of Messianic Jewish women for contributing welfare to society? Under Soviet Communist rule Ukrainian Jewry lost their religion, culture and lifestyle. In order to survive they assimilated. Jewish women became part of the work force and the institution of the Jewish family as a centre of Jewish community life collapsed. Religious Jewish women became secular Soviet citizens. This study describes Jewish women in the midst of past and present evolving suffering. The Mission view presents an ideal model within the context of welfare for the role of Jewish women and Jewish family life for the future. This study is theoretical. However, it also uses empirical material, which consists of discussions with 47 persons and questionnaires completed by 33 members. Theoretical sources consist of written literature such as academic studies and articles (mainly representing Jewish tradition), documents, statistics, and ten memoirs. The ethnographic approach includes the use of the theoretical frame, the OOM (the Organization Onion Model), which has been developed by sociologist of religion and cultural anthropologist Muukkonen (2000). The results of this ethnographic analysis show that the Mission view focuses on three tasks of family welfare: to create integrity at home and in the family, to rear children in order for them to grow into persistent, resilient human beings, and to continue and maintain Jewish lifestyle in the family. The generated Mission view includes the ideal of authentic Jewish women who want to produce welfare for the Jewish family. This analysis opens up new perspectives concerning family welfare in Jewish families. [This an edited excerpt from Ikonen’s Ph.D. Thesis of the same title, submitted to the University of Tampere, Finland, 2013. The full text of the thesis can be found by clicking on the following link http://tampub.uta.fi/bitstream/handle/10024/67982/978-951-44-9060-6.pdf?sequence=1]

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