International Conference

20-21 February 2019


University of Nairobi, Kenya

New Judaisms-New Diasporas

New Perspectives on Jewish Identity in the Twenty-First Century


Over the last fifty years across Africa, India and South America, there has been a massive surge in the numbers of newcomers to Judaism, who for various reasons, place themselves as part of the Jewish Diaspora. In the broader context of the reawakening of anti-Semitism, global fundamentalism and the threat of political Islam, this global impetus of people wanting to be considered as Jews or to become Jewish constitutes a remarkable turning point in Jewish history. The contemporary constructions of being a Jew pose many challenges to the bio-genealogical approach which implies that anyone with exclusively Jewish ancestry through maternal line may consider her/himself a Jew.

Newcomers to Judaism and their different kinds of affiliation and identification demonstrate that Judaism and Jewishness are going through profound changes in the twenty-first century. The Jewish collective is being transformed throughout the world with the assimilation of new Jews into the Jewish majority and calls for a renewed interest in the definition of Jewishness.


Papers will discuss the various understandings of Jewish identity in the twenty-first century in light of

the emergence of Jewish communities in different parts of the world and of the most topical debate of conversion to Judaism grounded in theoretical and conceptual frameworks of religious studies, sociology and social psychology.

A major aim of this conference will be to better understand the current phenomenon at both a macro and a micro level. In addition to clarifying the contemporary manifestations of Jewishness, we will seek to offer a new analytical view of the current meaning of Jewish identity on the ongoing debates in the social and cultural anthropology of Judaism and in Jewish Studies.


Questions to be covered might include:


  • Can the feeling of belonging to the Jewish collective be understood in ethno-cultural or in religious terms?


  • What do contemporary constructions of being a Jew tell us about the system of values, norms, and moral codes of Jewishness in the postmodern world?


  • In what way are these newcomers going to impact the sociological reality of conversion and its various contradictory approaches in Israel?


  • What is the relationship between local national politics and political mechanisms and the decision of joining the Jewish people? In other words can affiliation to Judaism be understood as the expression of democratic values?


  • Can the affiliation of certain new societies to the Jewish religious tradition be classified as an alternative spirituality, historically and sociologically connected with new religious movements?


  • Is this affiliation on the part of newcomers to Judaism the expression of religious transnationalism on a global scale?


  • How can the philo-Semitism of newcomers constitute a source of support for the Jewish people and Israel and impact the upsurge of anti-Semitism in both global and local contexts?


This conference will provide opportunity to explore and debate these and related questions in their historical, ideological, political, psychological, religious, and cultural dimensions.

Papers and proposals for round-table discussions as well as documentaries that emanate from African, African-American, South American, Caribbean and Asian contexts are most welcome.

The Conference is open to academic researchers and practitioners as well as non-presenters.


Date: Wednesday 20 and Thursday 21 February 2019


  • Venue: University of Nairobi, Kenya
  • Deadline for proposals: October 15, 2018; full papers: December 1, 2018.
  • Proposals: Proposals should be presented in no more than 200 words.

Proposals will be reviewed by the ISSAJ Scientific Committee.

Send proposals together with your curriculum vitae to:


  • Forms of Participation: Contributions may take the form of a paper, a round table or a documentary.  Academics are free to present papers or documentaries. Round tables discussions are dedicated to practitioners. Please indicate your form of presentation when you submit your abstract.


  • Registration: Presenters will be expected to pay conference fees and ISSAJ membership to the association as well. More information on the conference organization (accommodation, etc.) will follow.


  • Conference fees, including ISSAJ Membership (80€ / $100)

Early Bird Registration before November 30, 2018: €190/$230
Late Registration: €240/$290
Fulltime Students: €160/$195


Organizers: ISSAJ President: Dr Edith Bruder

ISSAJ Vice-President: Prof. Magdel Le Roux