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Confessions of the ShtetlConverts from Judaism in Imperial Russia, 1817-1906$
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Ellie R. Schainker

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780804798280

Published to Stanford Scholarship Online: May 2017

DOI: 10.11126/stanford/9780804798280.001.0001

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Relapsed Converts and Tales of Marranism

Relapsed Converts and Tales of Marranism

(p.159) Chapter 5 Relapsed Converts and Tales of Marranism
Confessions of the Shtetl

Ellie R. Schainker

Stanford University Press

Chapter 5 analyzes narratives of relapsed converts and their multiple cultural fluencies using legal cases of converts suspected of illegally relapsing back to Judaism before 1905 and petitions for relapse after the legalization of apostasy in 1905. Imperial sponsorship of Russian Orthodoxy combined with the criminality of Orthodox deviance until 1905 created an environment in which Jewish converts often lived in the interstices of communal and confessional life, defying clear religious categorization. Relapsed converts and their tales of marranism, or secret Jewish practice, called into question the confessional state’s strategy of mapping identity and community onto confessional ascription-- especially in the wake of the cantonist episode when legal and chosen religious identities were often at odds. As church and state officials grappled with these difficulties, relapsed converts and their defenders tried to inscribe their cultural mobility into imperial law through freedom of conscience measures.

Keywords:   relapse, marranos, seduction, apostasy, cantonist, reformed legal system, freedom of conscience, coercion, Russian Revolution of 1905

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