The 18th World Congress of Jewish Studies

The “Jewish Values” of Israeli Jewish Secular Believers

Are there Jewish values? And if so, what are they?

In the Jewish and democratic State of Israel, these philosophical or theological questions have a significant political and social meaning. It influences individuals’ perception of non-Jewish people, non-Israeli and/or non-Orthodox Jewish people, and ultraorthodox, religious, traditional, and/or secular Jewish-Israelis.

Located within the Postsecular Paradigm in social sciences, which emphasizes the hybridity of ‘the religious’ and ‘the secular,’ the proposed talk looks at ‘Jewish values’ by focusing on Jewish-Israeli secular-believers. Critical reading of demographic data reveals that secular-believers, who define themselves as secular and at the same time believe in God, constitute about 25% of the Jewish population in Israel.

Identifying them as carriers of postsecular Israeli-Judaism, the study applies the methodology of the Sociology of Belief, which combines sociological and theological analytical apparatuses to analyze secular-believers’ statements about faith. By using A.D. Gordon’s and Martin Buber’s postsecular theologies/philosophies as interpretive frames, while taking a glimpse at some canonical attempts to define ‘Jewish values,’ the paper presents four central spiritual-oriented principles which might be identified as ‘Jewish:’ the good, choice, work, and relations. Obviously, this does not deny that such principles may appear in other religious cultures, nor claim that their appearance is embedded in every Jewish stream. The particular understandings of these four notions and how they intersect in secular-believers’ faith may hint, however, that today religious and nonreligious Jewish-Israeli believers share these spiritual values.