“Jewish Secularism’s Moment,” by Steve Lipman (May 20), details the startling results from the latest surveys that show that as many as 37 percent of America’s Jews now check off “no religion” when asked to express their religious preferences. This percentage has doubled in the last 20 years and is indeed most noteworthy.
Most of that population has moved into secular humanism and Lipman commendably has included quotes from the significant leaders in this area to address the challenges involved in developing Jewish secular humanist identities.
Since that is my chosen identity, permit me to say that there is absolutely no confusion or ambivalence on my part as a Jewish secular humanist. I’m more interested in and activist about my Judaism than ever before. I feel emancipated by my reliance on reason, nature and scientific inquiry, rather than on ritual, faith and tradition. I know that my priority valuing of tzedakah and altruism is self-chosen because it’s important to do good just the sake of goodness rather than for the sake of pleasing an abstract deity.
History does show that some of the most important founders and leaders of Israel were secular. David Ben Gurion, Chaim Weitzman, Golda Meir, Moshe Dayan, Menachem Begin and Yitzchak Rabin, just to name a few.
Given the pronounced increase in the population of Jewish secular humanists, it would be valuable for a newspaper such as The Jewish Week, which is read by Jews of all ideological bents, to present a weekly column by different secular humanistic Jews that can further its understanding by all of the newspaper’s readers. Promoting such a better understanding segues into a better dialogue and interaction with other Jewish denominations, thereby strengthening all of the participants and Judaism in general.
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