Volume 16, 2011 : The Emerging Second Generation of Immigrant Israelis

Ethiopian Religious Leaders of the 1.5 Generation:
Between Integration and Resistance


Rachel Sharaby
Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Ashkelon Academic College and
The Interdisciplinary Social Sciences Department, Bar-Ilan University


Aviva Kaplan
School of Behavioral Sciences, Netanya Academic College and
Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Ashkelon Academic College


This pilot ethnographic study presents and compares the narratives of the two kinds of religious leaders emerging from the ranks of the 1.5 generation of Ethiopian immigrants. The one is traditional spiritual leaders (kessoch) whose authority draws on the ancestral tradition and knowledge passed from father to son; the other is rabbis trained and ordained in Israeli religious institutions and now serving in local rabbinical councils across Israel. The first group is not recognized by the religious establishment but enjoys respect within their communities; the second is formally recognized (and allowed to perform most ritual functions) but located on the margins of the rabbinical establishment and lacks true authority. The paper discusses the emerging conflict between these leaders though the theoretical lenses of syncretism and social inclusion/exclusion.

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