Legitimizing academic knowledge in religious bounded communities: Jewish ultra-orthodox students in Israeli higher education

Oren Golan, Eldar Fehl

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In recent years, there has been a significant growth in the educational engagement of religious, fundamentalist, and bounded communities with modern society. This study examines the conflictual interaction in the context of the recent rise of Haredi (Jewish ultra-Orthodox) participation in Israeli higher education, asking: How do students from bounded religious communities legitimize their participation in academic learning? Through 27 semi-structured interviews with Haredi students, we uncovered four modes of legitimation: (1) existential—viewing academic learning as a means for improved welfare; (2) community-based—expressing communal tolerance toward academia; (3) tailored—referencing adaptation of the pedagogic environment to student needs and demands; and (4) epistemic—reconciling scientific and religious knowledge. Paradoxically, we found that the growth within academia of educational enclaves with firm boundaries actually fosters greater affinity toward scientific knowledge among learners.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101609
JournalInternational Journal of Educational Research
StatePublished - 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors wish to thank the editors and anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments. Deep gratitude is offered to Aref Badarne for his reflective assistance in the developing stages of this study and his careful editing of the manuscript. Finally, the authors wish to acknowledge support from the Ministry of Science in Israel (Grant Nr: 3-15724).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Elsevier Ltd


  • Israeli academia
  • Religious epistemology
  • Science and religion
  • Sociology of knowledge
  • Ultra-Orthodox

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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