‘Spiritual risk’: A parental perception of risk for children in the Ultra-Orthodox Jewish community

Yochay Nadan*, Netanel Gemara, Rivka Keesing, Esther Bamberger, Dorit Roer-Strier, Jill Korbin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


This article addresses child protection in close-knit religious communities. Specifically, it presents the findings of a qualitative research project that examined Ultra-Orthodox Jewish parents’ perceptions and ascribed meanings of child risk and protection based on fifty in-depth interviews with parents from Israel and the USA. Here, we hone in on one key theme that emerged from our analysis of the interviews, which the interviewees themselves referred to as ‘spiritual risk’. ‘Spiritual risk’ is a complex construct comprising the following three interrelated dimensions: (i) a decline in observance of the Torah and the commandments, (ii) violation of sociocultural norms and rules and (iii) a decline in spiritual beliefs, including the sense of connection with G-d. In the eyes of parents, it is decline in these three dimensions that constitutes the ‘spiritual risk’ to the child. ‘Spiritual risk’ can be a consequence of parental maltreatment and can result in children and adolescents moving away from the Ultra-Orthodox religious world and leaving their community. The results of this study advocate context-informed and religious-sensitive prevention and intervention programmes. They also highlight the need to include context and religious competency in the training of professionals working with diverse communities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1198-1215
Number of pages18
JournalBritish Journal of Social Work
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2018. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of The British Association of Social Workers. All rights reserved.


  • Child protection
  • Cultural competence
  • Culture
  • Religion
  • Risk for children
  • Spirituality
  • Ultra-Orthodox Jews


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