JEWISH LIFE AND CULTURE
Something to Think About!
American Jewish Identity Survey (Egon Mayer, Barry Kosmin and Ariela Keysar) reports that a full 48% of American Jews do not belong to a synagogue. When asked what their religious outlook is, 35% identified as secular and 15% as somewhat secular.s any Jew knows, trying to define what it means to be Jewish is difficult, if not impossible.
Yet still we try: over the past two decades, the number of American Jews who define themselves as secular has nearly doubled; in Israel, a country founded on secular and nationalistic notions of Judaism, the religious population has risen dramatically. Fifty-eight percent of Israeli Jews now consider themselves either traditional or religious, while just 42 percent say they’re secular.
But many definitions fail to convey what Judaism truly is. Its religious aspects can be no more easily separated from its cultural or national dimensions than secular notions of Jewishness can be divorced from their religious origins. Still, a common assumption today is that Judaism began as a religion and only gradually grew into something more broad — and it’s flat wrong.
The idea was most recently given voice in the international bestseller “The Invention of the Jewish People,” by the Israeli historian and anti-Zionist Shlomo Sand, in which he argued that the idea of Jewish peoplehood was a modern invention in the service of the Zionist cause. Or as Tom Segev succinctly summarized Sand’s argument: “There was never a Jewish people, only a Jewish religion.”
What Do Think?
Do You Understand Your Jewish Neighbors?
Can You Reach Them Without Knowing Who They Are?
Do You Understand Their Culture, Beliefs, Traditions, the 7 Sects Within Judaism?