Jewish Hatzolah and the barriers to equivalent Aboriginal Australian cultural adaptation

Terry Moore

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Insofar as they perceive secularisation as loss of attachment to tradition and community, Orthodox Jews face difficulties somewhat similar to those facing Aboriginal Australians. Both fear that engagement with the wider society equates to loss of cultural particularity. Orthodox Australian Jews have responded to this fear by countering the trend to secularisation and adapting traditional cultural beliefs and practices so that they may be retained while also allowing engagement in modern secular life. Hatzolah is one adaptation that reconciles dissonances between cultural heritage, secular life and good health. My interest in Hatzolah is as a metaphor that may help in exploring the possibility of equivalent Aboriginal responses, whereby Aborigines may negotiate the discourse that, for them, pits culture against health, education and socio-economic status. In this case, powerful discourse makes structured adaptation like Hatzolah less likely than it might otherwise be. Yet in their everyday, Aborigines do negotiate the tensions of being modern, much as Orthodox Jews. I argue that the discursive oppositions are the product of public policy and identity politics that are both invested in a solidary culture, unitary identity and binary difference. I also argue that the emergence of Hatzolah-like adaptations depends on the recognition and full consideration in policy of Aborigines’ contemporary lived realities of interculturality, subjective multiplicity and ambiguity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)132-148
Number of pages17
JournalSocial Identities
Issue number2
Early online date1 Apr 2015
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes


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