Discourse, legitimacy, and bottom-to-bottom change: haredi activism to promote secular education in New-York Hasidic Schools

Shai Katzir, Lotem Perry-Hazan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Controversy surrounding the teaching of secular education (SE) has fomented recurrent conflicts between liberal states and religious enclave communities (ECs). The current study explored Haredi (Jewish ultra-Orthodox) community-based activism aiming to promote SE in New York Hasidic schools for boys. It sheds light on how Haredi activists’ discourse legitimized change within their community, following the activists’ efforts to promote policy change through lobbyism, litigation, and media campaigns. The data was derived from documents, observations of social media platforms, and interviews with activists. The findings showed that the activists’ discourse was disseminated in various forms to targeted audiences within the Haredi community, circumventing the religious establishment’s censorship mechanisms. This discourse's content revealed interrelated facets of legitimacy: pragmatic, religious, educational, rights-based, and sociopolitical. It also combined revolutionary arguments with ideas derived from existing community tradition. The conclusions explicate the scheme of employing creative strategies, targeting different audiences, and combining various facets of legitimacy to produce counter-narratives that undermine power structures in ECs. The study’s implications highlight the need for policymakers to understand the barriers Haredi activists encounter upon advocating educational change. The implications also underscore the need to integrate top-down, bottom-up, and bottom-to-bottom efforts to engender change in religious enclave schools.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)141-165
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Education Policy
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.


  • Educational activism
  • Haredi
  • New York
  • enclave communities
  • legitimacy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


Dive into the research topics of 'Discourse, legitimacy, and bottom-to-bottom change: haredi activism to promote secular education in New-York Hasidic Schools'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this