“Sense for Gambling” Among Jewish Ultra-Orthodox Men With Gambling Disorder

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Making sense of the social world is an intricate process heavily influenced by cultural elements. Gambling is a prevalent leisure-time activity characterized by risk-taking conduct. While some individuals who engage in it do so without experiencing any harm, others will develop gambling problems. Judaism tends to perceive gambling negatively since it contradicts fundamental Jewish principles. The current study focuses on the Jewish Ultra-Orthodox community in Israel which is characterized as a cultural enclave with minimal interaction with the secular world. Hence, it provides a unique and novel socio-cultural context to inquire how individuals with gambling disorder (GD) from this community make sense of gambling. Following constructivist grounded theory guidelines, 22 Ultra-Orthodox men with GD were interviewed using a purposeful sampling design. Sixteen Rabbis were also interviewed, illuminating the socio-cultural context of Halachic regulations and norms regarding gambling in this community. An abductive analysis of the data, interwoven with Bourdieu’s concept of habitus, yielded an overarching theme that we dub as “sense for gambling,” encompassing matrices of Ultra-Orthodox external (e.g., a conservative cultural structure with numerous prohibitions and life marked by poverty) and internal (e.g., feelings of loneliness, dissatisfaction, and deviance) dispositions imprinted onto the body, creating diverse embodied reactions (emotional and sensory) to gambling, and leading to developing GD. We recommend placing the body, as the locus of internalized dispositions, at the core of examination when researching pathways to GD. We propose that this intricate interplay between external and internal dispositions shapes the decision-making regarding gambling, thus mitigating individual responsibility for GD.

Original languageEnglish
JournalQualitative Health Research
Early online date24 Jan 2024
StatePublished Online - 24 Jan 2024


  • Jewish Ultra-Orthodox
  • closed communities
  • gambling disorder
  • habitus
  • religion
  • sense-making

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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