American Sociological Association

Weddings in the Town Square: Young Russian Israelis Protest the Religious Control of Marriage in Tel-Aviv

The article discusses alternative wedding ceremonies staged in urban spaces as a statement of protest among immigrant couples that cannot marry in rabbinical courts, because they are not recognized as Jews. These public weddings are organized and sponsored by the Fishka association of young Israeli adults of Russian origin. Our field-work at Fishka included participant observation of its various events during 2013–2014, as well as in-depth interviews with the key informants, promotional materials, and video recordings of their public wedding ceremonies held in the streets of Tel-Aviv in 2009–2011. Embedded in the social history of the city and framed in the concepts of urban diversity and the politics of belonging, our ethnographic data juxtapose “Russian” street weddings with other public festivals sponsored by Fishka and other protest actions by minority groups. Alternative, civil weddings emerge as a form of active and critical citizenship among young Russian immigrants, seeking solidarity of other Israelis in the joint effort to reform the status quo and enable civil alternatives to Orthodox marriage. The active political stance and cultural activism of Fishka members challenge native Israelis’ monopoly on communal public space; young immigrants are thus carving a place for themselves in the iconic sites of the city's public cultural sphere.

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Anna Prashizky and Larissa Remennick

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