The sacred scroll and the researcher’s body: an autoethnography of Reform Jewish ritual

Elazar Ben-Lulu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


This article examines the relationship between the researcher’s body and the Torah scroll (Sefer Torah) during participant observation of a Jewish holiday ritual in an Israeli Reform congregation. Using an autoethnographic approach, I show how the Reform Jewish ritual demonstrates that the body is a charged religious symbol and the bearer of family traditions and unconscious understandings of the social order. Through this encounter, I discovered how my position in fieldwork on religion is located at the intersection of my ethnographic discipline, my religious habitus, and my identity as a gay man. Reflexive analysis of my active and passive behavior during the observation offered an opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the differences between myself and the congregation. Thus, I suggest that anthropologists, even when researching their culture, must be aware of the elements that make up their own identities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)299-315
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Contemporary Religion
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Autoethnography
  • Reform Judaism
  • body
  • holiness
  • ritual

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Religious studies
  • Philosophy


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